23
   

Can An Atheist Have A Soul?

 
 
spiritual anrkst
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 03:18 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Spiritual Anrkst....

I don't think you understand the article you are reading.

The authors talk are clearly basing their ideas about evolution (the say as much in the article). Everyone understands that evolution is about chemistry. They are only suggesting that QM phenomena are part of the chemical mechanisms that microbes evolved to use.

There is nothing particularly mystical here. Life on earth evolved to use all sorts of chemical phenomena... from protein chaining to the electrochemical properties of ionic solutions.

This is kind of cool... but it doesn't say anything mystical about either consciousness or Quantum Mechanics. (other then that the chemistry in the decision making cells of these microbes relies on a certain set of scientifically accepted chemical processes).

The point is that science is a unique field in before something is accepted is fact, it must be well-defined in a way that can be tested and/or can make predictions. In this way any scientific facts are verified with reality.

Ideas about souls are not science.



That was my whole point in the article. I think some people of getting too hung up on scientific proofs. I am not trying to prove the soul exist. The reason why I quote articles like that is the same reason I had my discussion with Fred Alan Wolf and The Quantum Mind group. Quantum Physicist were claiming that quantum states only affect things on the subatomic level therefor could not affect animals or plants on a biological level. If this were the case then biology could only be understood on the biological level. In other words only newtons laws would apply to the brain so our brain like a computer could only process information in a predetermined way.

Hence there would be no room for freewill let alone a soul. To me if ideas about consciousness or our minds is science than so could ideas about the soul. Unless of course quantum physics principles can in no way affect us on the biological level. So although I will admit QM doesn't prove some sort of mysticism it does open the debate on what consciousness can and can not be including properties of indeterminacy and free will. The Many Worlds Theory of Hugh Everett opens this door even further.

I wonder how science measures what is conscious? How does science measure awareness? The Many Worlds Theory is gaining momentum in science so can we really assume that all phenomena can be reduced to the physics of just one Universe? But I do feel that I am getting off topic of my original post. I wasn't asking why science can or can not prove that souls exist but specifically why atheist think the same types of reasoning we apply to imaginary beings like God apply equally to the question of the soul.

If I see a weird light in the sky and think it is an alien space craft I may be wrong and it may in fact just be swamp gas. But at least I perceived something real (swamp gas). If I am wrong about my awareness in of my mind being my soul at least I am observing something real (my mind).

Those who argue for God do not base their arguments on observing anything in particular. They do not perceive a phenomena that we can all agree on and then ask scientifically or even philosophically what qualities this phenomena can and cant have. They typically take abstract concepts like "perfection" and reason that if the mind can conceive this idea then the concept must come outside the mind and from a perfect being namely God.
There are so many holes in this argument I wouldn't know where to begin.

Even if I am wrong about the soul how can arguments like the one from perfect concepts be compared to my argument from QM, awareness, and the hard problem of consciousness? I am not saying my arguments on on the level of science (yet) . I am saying my arguments are way more philosophically sound and scientifically approachable than the theological concept of God.
jeeprs
 
  4  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 05:07 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
I am sorry, but I think this is ridiculous. I don't have the slightest idea what "scientific materialism" means. In my years of studying, teaching and doing science, I have never heard the term). I would appreciate if you could explain what you mean by this term.


A pleasure. It may likely never come up in a science class but it is a pretty important topic in philosophy. The philosophy of materialism goes back to the ancient Greek atomists who argued that "all that existed were atoms and the void". This view was immortalized in the epic poem De Rerum Natura by Lucretius.

Materialism of this kind continued to be represented in philosophy but was hardly developed prior to the Enlightenment. It was around this time that some of the scientifically- inclined philosophers revived the theory that the only thing that truly exists are material bodies, which are ultimately composed of atoms (as the ancient materialists had said) Note that 'atom' means 'uncuttable' or 'indivisible'. Philosophically speaking, the idea of the 'eternal atom' gives them the status of the most fundamental reality, the basis of everything else that exists. And this is what 'materialism' means.

Baron D'Holbach, who was a prominent contributor to the French enlightenment and atheist author, famously declared that 'all I see are bodies in motion'.

On the basis of such ideas, the brilliant LaPlace devised the main argument for physical determinism, saying
Quote:
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.


(Many people still seem to believe this is true, but I am sure it has been disproved by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Chaos theory.)

Now in effect, this laid the philosophical groundwork for the materialism of the Scientific Revolution, which brought together Newtonian physics, Cartesian mathematics and Galilean cosmology. In this scheme, the Universe was seen as an indefinitely vast collection of physical bodies, ultimately composed of atoms, moving in accordance with, and ultimately determined by, physical laws.

There you have scientific materialism in a nutshell. And I am sure many people still believe it obtains.

Now the reason why it has been undermined by relativity and QM (which are, as you point out, quite separate areas of science) is that first of all relativity demolished the Newtonian ideas of absolute space and time, and also showed that matter and energy were ultimately interchangeable. But far more seriously, QM undermined the ontological status of the atom. When the atom was 'split', or shown to be composed of smaller particles, I contend that this was the end of the philosophical foundation for classical materialism.

The paradoxical consequences of QM, you may recall, were a source of great disquiet to Einstein, who spent most of the last years of his career attempting to harmonize them with his realist outlook, but without success. And it remains unsolved to this day.

Now I realise that a lot of quantum theory is really only accessible to those trained in mathematical physics. However the philosophical implications have been discussed widely by physicists who have an interest in philosophy in both serious and popular books. I am aware that 'quantum healing crystals' and the like have reached fad status in popular culture, however it is indisputable and thoroughly documented that the 'observer effect' and Bell's Theorem both destroy the idea of physical atomism as it was understood by the Enlightenment thinkers. There are no ultimate hard, massy little particles from which everything has been fashioned. And in fact even the final mathematical analysis of matter is still incomplete, to which end we have built the most expensive machine in history.

As regards the soul, I frame no hypothesis.


References

A History of Materialism, F. A. Lange

LaPlace's Demon

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness Rosenblum & Kuttner

Bernard D'Espagnet's Templeton Prize acceptance speech - containing a brief critique of realism in light of discoveries of QM.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 05:41 pm
@jeeprs,
Quote:
It was around this time that some of the scientifically- inclined philosophers revived the theory that the only thing that truly exists are material bodies, which are ultimately composed of atoms (as the ancient materialists had said) Note that 'atom' means 'uncuttable' or 'indivisible'. Philosophically speaking, the idea of the 'eternal atom' gives them the status of the most fundamental reality, the basis of everything else that exists. And this is what 'materialism' means.


It seems to me the problem with this is the meaning of the word "exists". There is a scientific meaning to the word; that it can be measured either directly or indirectly. There are other meanings of the word "exist". I don't claim that the scientific view of existence is any more "valid" then any other view.

But if we are discussing the meaning of science, it is clear that the scientific definition of existence is the only relevant one.

Let me make this clear Quantum Mechanics and Relativity are branches of science. They are not philosophy.

They are mathematical well-defined ideas that are subject to the same criteria of any other scientific theory. They are accepted because they can be objectively tested. We make predictions using any part of Quantum Mechanics (including the new ones that are being advanced). No theory is accepted until it has been tested... and the ones that fail to meet observation are discarded.

Quote:

Now in effect, this laid the philosophical groundwork for the materialism of the Scientific Revolution, which brought together Newtonian physics, Cartesian mathematics and Galilean cosmology. In this scheme, the Universe was seen as an indefinitely vast collection of physical bodies, ultimately composed of atoms, moving in accordance with, and ultimately determined by, physical laws.


This view hasn't changed. Quantum Mechanics adds new mathematical rules to atoms. It increases our understanding of how atoms works, and it allows a way to understand how things work subatomically.

But the fact that the Universe moves in accordance with and is ultimate determined by physical laws hasn't changed a bit. All we did is greatly increase our understanding of these physical laws.

Quantum Mechanics (what you are calling the "observer effect" included) leads to concrete predictions about how the Universe works that can be tested by experiment... just as any scientific theory before it did.


ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 05:56 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
Spiritual Anrkst,

Quantum Mechnics is chemistry. In its ability to explain biological phenomina, it works the same as any other part of chemistry. Quantum Mechanics is a concrete science... we use it to make predictions about how the Universe works. These experiments work predictably and are completely reproducible (or the ideas behind them are discarded).

So if some phenomenon of Quantum Mechanics turns out to be important in brain function, it doesn't doesn't mean very much. Consider the following.

Your brain works on ions-- which are key to the way that synapses (which are undoubtedly key to the biological process we call "thinking") work. This basically is salts dissolved in water. As far as how the brain works, dissolved salt is crucial-- I don't think you can put any more mystical meaning to quantum mechanics then you can to dissolved salt.

It is just as correct to say "dissolved salt is a critical part of consciousness" (although admittedly it doesn't sound as sexy as "Quantum Mechanics").

Of course Quantum Mechanics is at work in things that aren't alive. The computer you are typing on depends on quantum mechanics (electron tunneling, for example, is a key to modern microprocessor design). I don't think you are going to ascribe consciousness to computers.

In college, I did experiments on crystals. We bounced x-rays on crystals and carefully measured how the x-rays interacted as they reflected off the crystal. It turns out that Quantum Mechanics determines how crystals decide to direct x-rays bounced off of them.

I am quite sure you are not going to ascribe consciousness to rocks.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 06:01 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
It seems to me the problem with this is the meaning of the word "exists". There is a scientific meaning to the word; that it can be measured either directly or indirectly. There are other meanings of the word "exist". I don't claim that the scientific view of existence is any more "valid" then any other view.

But if we are discussing the meaning of science, it is clear that the scientific definition of existence is the only relevant one.

Let me make this clear Quantum Mechanics and Relativity are branches of science. They are not philosophy.


I dispute that the meaning of the word 'exist' is a scientific problem at all. It is a philosophical problem; some might even say it is the ONLY philosophical problem. It is all very well to say 'hey, science owns all these theories, our definition is the only one that matters'. But if you look into it, many scientists don't even dare speculate on what the instruments are measuring, and whether it actually exists or not. That is actually the direct implication of your definition. 'We can measure it, therefore it exists'. But what exists, apart from the act of measurement. That is exactly what cannot be said.

Philosophers have every right to consider the implications of these matters for the nature of reality. Recall that when physics started off, it was called Natural Philosophy. If you read that reference I provided by D'Espagnet, who is a first-class physicist AND philosopher, you will see that he actually questions whether what physics measures is reality.

Quote:
This view hasn't changed. Quantum Mechanics adds new mathematical rules to atoms.

But the things it measures ARE NOT atoms. They are something else. The idea that they are fundamental particles in the sense understood by classical physics, is no longer tenable. Whether they 'exist', as you said above, depends on your definition of 'existence'.
ebrown p
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 06:09 pm
@jeeprs,
Quote:
dispute that the meaning of the word 'exist' is a scientific problem at all. It is a philosophical problem; some might even say it is the ONLY philosophical problem. It is all very well to say 'hey, science owns all these theories, our definition is the only one that matters'.


I think you and I are in agreement on this (other then a possible trivial quibble over word usage). I don't disagree with anything in this post.

I am only saying that science is restricted to things that can be tested and measured (either directly or indirectly). There are obviously lots of things that fall outside of the realm of science.

As far as whether what Physics measures is reality... this is an ill-defined question. It's not only that it can't be answered... the question is meaningless in any realm until you provide a definition of the word "reality".
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 06:13 pm
@jeeprs,
Quote:
But the things it measures ARE NOT atoms. They are something else.


So what? The things it measures follow a set system of rules. These rules allow us to make predictable, repeatable, deterministic predictions about how the Universe works.

The phenomena of Quantum Mechanics are so predictable and so reliable that you are able to use them, right now in fact, to read this message.

Science is science. Whether it is bodies, or atoms or quarks... the process of science, and the power of science to explain and predict the way the Universe works hasn't changed.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 07:53 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
the power of science to explain and predict the way the Universe works hasn't changed.


Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that, while we know 'what works', we are no longer under the illusion that we know what we are looking at. Very Happy
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 03:21 am
@spiritual anrkst,
anrkst wrote:
I want to know what philosophical reasoning leads most atheist to reject all spirituality even when the spiritual ideas presented are stripped of religion or theology?

The premise of your question is false. I'm an atheist, yet listening to Bach's Goldberg variations is a deeply spiritual experience to me. But in contrast to religious believers, I think my spirit is a particular pattern of electrical impulses that my brain cells emit. It's no different, in principle, from my conviction that the Goldberg Variations are a particular pattern of soundwaves emitted by a piano.

anrkst wrote:
If atheist applied the same type of reasoning to quantum physics that they typically apply to the idea of a soul or reincarnation the exploration of physics beyond Newton would come to a screeching halt.

How so? Quantum physics makes testable and very precise predictions. If it wasn't for quantum physics, there would be no reason to expect that electron microscopes can magnify images, that nuclear power plants can generate electricity, or that the transistors in your computer can compute anything. By contrast, no hypotheses about souls or incarnation have led to any testable predictions at all.

spiritual anrkst wrote:
In fact quantum physics seems to point to awareness (The Observer) as the cause behind random events

No, it doesn't.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 03:28 am
@Thomas,
Quote:
I'm an atheist, yet listening to Bach's Goldberg variations is a deeply spiritual experience to me


Does this mean you recognise a non-theist or atheist form of spirituality? I am curious as to how you can reconcile deep spirituality and atheism.
solipsister
 
  2  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 03:37 am
@spiritual anrkst,
If you find you don't have a soul you can borrow mine if you wish. But I want it back cleansed and in pristine condition by next Armageddon.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  3  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 10:23 am
@jeeprs,
Quote:
Does this mean you recognise a non-theist or atheist form of spirituality? I am curious as to how you can reconcile deep spirituality and atheism.


IMO Spirituality is any concept in which the "consciousness" of the individual is considered to have aspects beyond physiological reductionism. This does not imply a "ghost in the machine", rather it implies that the concept of machines is a product of consciousness. Nor does imply that consciousness requires a divinity or prime mover to account for it, for such "causality" is merely "machine speak".
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 12:32 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
I'll bite...

spiritual anrkst wrote:
I would like to hear from atheist that reject all forms of spiritual ideas.

I'm an atheist, so I don't personally buy the idea of a spirit in the typical religious context. But I don't discount any other kind or type of spirituality, any time I ask someone what spirituality means to them I get a a whole lot of definitions that are something else renamed spirituality. To what end, I don't quite understand (although I'd like to).

If you're deeply moved by a song (which, by the way, the Goldberg Variations is an excellent example!) than I'd call that "being deeply moved by a song", not spirtual. As I mentioned before, I don't call my cat "A Muffler Bracket", I call him "A Cat".

If we want to posit the notion that all things beyond the physical are therefore spiritual; ok, that's cool - confusing, but cool. But adding this to the fact that for the hundreds (thousands?) of folks with whom I've spoke about spirituality with, that all come up with a different interpretation I must ask this: How does this have any meaning, any worth or any place in our thoughts or conversation when we can't even know what the hell we're talking about?

Folks talk about a "feeling of oneness" which, to me, is "a feeling of oneness" or "the sense of community one feels towards the love of life on their planet", which to me is "the sense of community one feels towards the love of life on their planet". In other words: What are all these other ideals, concepts, sensations and phenomena that are already differentiated and describable that they can also be called "spiritual".

I looked it up - actually researched quite a bit before I became hopelessly confused - and although there are a number of definitions, most differentiations that seem to make some sense have to do with ghosts, non-corporeal religious entities and mystical phenomena. I think it is in this context that many still view this.

In any case, we didn't get hardly anywhere. The most recent discussion we had is now here.

Thanks

0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 12:34 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
IMO Spirituality is any concept in which the "consciousness" of the individual is considered to have aspects beyond physiological reductionism.

This is actually a really perspicuous way of putting it. Unfortunately, all it does is tell us what it's not, not what it is. So by this, everything that can't be attributed to physiological processes could then, justifiably, be called Spiritual (to you)?
0 Replies
 
spiritual anrkst
 
  2  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 12:40 pm
Wow maybe atheism is a religion. I have been an atheist ever since I was a child in rejection of religion. When my mom brought me to church I found nothing taught there made sense or felt right. I was reading about mythology since I was 11 maybe before. The stories told to me like Noah's Arc seemed nonsensical. The more I studied mythology the more I found things in it that had things in common with religion like the virgin birth. I was told by everyone I knew that I was going to go to hell for not believing this tripe. I denied having a soul that could go to hell. In fact I denied anything supernatural. To me once you proved one supernatural phenomena you proved them all.

I looked to anthropology to explain to me why man as a whole tended to need religion. What I found was as science advanced religion became less necessary because things that people didn't understand became more understandable and easier to explain. I had experiences that science couldn't directly answer but I denied my own experiences knowing

1. That accepting theses experiences as real would bring me into accepting the supernatural and 2. That if I wanted to continue to live free of the sickness of religion it would be best if I had support by other atheist.

In other words I joined the atheist religion in order to avoid all the others. So I to clung to "THE KNOWN" that is what can science answer? What has science studied or tested and found to be true. The fact that I was attacked by demons in my sleep had to be ignored because demons are supernatural and I would have to accept the christian devil therefor all Christianity.

Then I began to question this. If I could question religion because of my experience why couldn't question my experience outside the context of the accepted religions? Science would just laugh at the question. So I looked into the older religions. And sure enough I found descriptions of the soul that had nothing to do with God or salvation. In fact my research into the devil found that Christians made him up borrowing from The Persians. Later they borrowed from the Greeks god pan.

So for a while I experimented with paganism. But again although paganism seemed more balanced with both God and Goddess it made me feel that I belonged to another religion based on various mythologies. Worse than that it gave me no answers to psychic attacks beyond magic.

In fact when I met pagans most of them seemed to belong to Wicca. They were witches and believed that Christians revised all that Wicca taught in order to created a new religion. These wiccans had no interest in anything accept accumulating power. They did this by casting spells. Again I have no interest in accepting supernatural especially people obsessed with power. This why I turned away from Christianity from the beginning. From here I learned that pagans were simply people that made a religion out of mythological gods and got all their teachings from Shamans.

So I started studying shamanism. I needed some explanation for whether I had a soul independent of worshiping gods or casting spells. I do not believe gods are real or that magic is real. But I realized that I am psychic in some ways and science like religion again let me down when I tried to figure out what to do about this. So although I am still very enthusiastic about science and even agree with what most atheist and scientist say ( I agree with most of their beliefs and reasoning.) I still had to accept eventually that I was having experiences that were neither understood or accepted by either.

For instance when I was 16 I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance that caused depression and suicidal tendencies. Religion would have me pray and fight demons. Science would have me physically addicted to pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life. I knew in my soul that neither would work. In shamanism I found that all illness was caused by imbalances in the soul. Now science would say this is ridiculous and biology proves this otherwise medicine wouldn't work. But medicine isn't a discipline invented by science. Shamans were first called medicine men and for good reason. The herbal medicine that shamans used to treat illness is the basis of scientific medicine.

"For thousands of years, healers have used plants to cure illness. Aspirin, the world's most widely used drug, is based on compounds originally extracted from the bark of a willow tree, and more than a quarter of medicines found on pharmacy shelves contain plant compounds. Now Western medicine, faced with health crises such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer, has begun to look to the healing plants used by indigenous peoples to develop powerful new medicines"

From Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Rain Forest

Anyway to make a long story short using shamanism methods of rescuing pieces of the soul in dream work vision quest etc I was able to completely cure this imbalance in myself. I also found out that these so called demons that attacked me in my sleep were simply what shamans called http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R815x4BIsjU Fliers.

Through Shamanism I was able to shut out fliers in dreams shield myself from my empathic abilities so that they didn't overwhelm me and cure my chemical imbalance by recovering my soul energies. And I did all this without casting spells or calling on God(s) .

What does science have to say about this? Well science says that either I never had a chemical imbalance in the first place or I am still chemically imbalanced and I am in denial of this. Now I can not prove my soul directly. But I can prove science wrong on both counts. I indeed had a chemical balance and it was diagnosed and treated. The pharmaceuticals applied had effects both beneficial and harmful.

Since my body and mind resisted the synthetic or inorganic pharmaceuticals of man I quit taking them. Instead of making things better for my state of mind they made them worse. True I wasn't depressed all the time but they created a whole new set of problems. As the effective dose was raised my ability to think clearly and quickly diminished and my dreams were more open to attacks.

Science would say this was all hallucination and call these hallucinations an unwanted side effect. So medical science would suggest that I change pharmaceuticals(Prescribe me different drugs) .And this is exactly what they did. My soul warned me of this. And now I believed in a soul. Because I accepted my soul as awareness independent of my mind based on thoughts I actually observed fliers at work. I was switched to a new drug Prozac. Fliers are inorganic beings and pharmaceuticals are synthetic. Therefor they work well together.

On Prozac I had very psychotic thoughts. But now I know I am not my thoughts but that I am my soul. So I was able to distance myself as a soul and see the psychotic thoughts for what they were..fliers. I quit Prozac started practicing shamanism and never had depression or psychotic thoughts again. Ok sometimes I still observe fliers but they have lost all power over me and stopped attacking me in my dreams.

Most atheist I met during this process and now after admitted to being agnostic about God. But now like in my past encounters atheist are continuing to claim that they can prove the soul doesn't exist. Or at least they are claiming that science doesn't presently support the existence of the soul. But before Einstein science couldn't prove the existence of the quantum nature of reality. Quantum Reality wasn't measurable or observable. So only Newtonian Physics were accepted. Even Einstein himself doubted quantum physics would ever have any real basis in science.

The same reasons he doubted that quantum physics described the nature of reality seems to me the same reason atheist doubt that there will ever be scientific evidence for the soul. Einstein said "God (Nature) doesn't play dice". In other words he rejected the new science of quantum physics because of nonlocality or spooky action at a distance and more importantly what QP would do to determinism. After reading some of the post on this board I realize he need not have worried.

The religion of determinism is alive and well in science just as it is in religion. Anything that would allow for freewill or the soul in quantum physics is explained away. And yet the problems that Einstein encountered in quantum physics are still with us today and not completely explained as the religion of determinism would have us believe.

These problems include

Quantum Probability & the Measurement Problem

Quantum physics is defined mathematically by the Schroedinger equation, which depicts the probability of a particle being found at a certain point. This probability is fundamental to the system, not merely a result of ignorance. Once a measurement is made, however, you have a definite result.

The measurement problem is that the theory doesn't completely explain how the act of measurement actually causes this change. Attempts to solve the problem have lead to some intriguing theories.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
The physicist Werner Heisenberg developed the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which says that when measuring the physical state of a quantum system there's a fundamental limit to the amount of precision that can be achieved.

For example, the more precisely you measure the momentum of a particle the less precise your measurement of its position. Again, in Heisenberg's interpretation this wasn't just a measurement error or technological limitation, but an actual physical limit.

Quantum Entanglement & Nonlocality
In quantum theory, certain physical systems can become "entangled," meaning that their states are directly related to the state of another object somewhere else. When one object is measured, and the Schroedinger wavefunction collapses into a single state, the other object collapses into its corresponding state ... no matter how far away the objects are (i.e. nonlocality).

Einstein, who called these influences "spooky action at a distance," illuminated this concept with his EPR Paradox.

And yes...
Quantum Consciousness
In attempts to solve the measurement problem in quantum physics (see above), physicists frequently run into the problem of consciousness. Though most physicists try to sidestep the issue, it seems that there is a link between the conscious choice of experiment and the outcome of the experiment.

Some physicists, most notably Roger Penrose, believe that current physics cannot explain consciousness, and that consciousness itself has a link to the strange quantum realm.

It is an irony the atheist on this board use measurement in science as a proof that the soul doesn't exist considering the measurement problem in quantum physics is about consciousness.

Again most atheist are I have met are agnostic on the question of whether God will ever be proven to be a reality. Not the Christian concept but something else that meets the definition of a creator or intelligent force behind creation. But when it comes to the soul they are certainit doesn't exist. Of course if you study theology like I did you will see that almost any accept understanding of God is compatible with determinism. If the soul were ever proven to exist it would have to be a completely free entity capable of influencing or even creating on some level the reality we live in. Quantum Physicist, Atheist , and Christians resist this for the existential nausea this creates in them where the words "condemned to be free" is more than just a life sentence but an eternal one.

If awareness has existed forever and always will then not only are we in Hell but we are in Hell of our own creation and are responsible for every piece of suffering in our world. No wonder man submits to the fliers or inorganic beings shamans say control him. No wonder the religions of man including atheism are based on in determinism. Compared to how reality might actually be I can see why most atheist find nihilism so seductive.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 01:00 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:

Quote:
I'm an atheist, yet listening to Bach's Goldberg variations is a deeply spiritual experience to me

Does this mean you recognise a non-theist or atheist form of spirituality? I am curious as to how you can reconcile deep spirituality and atheism.

That's tough to answer, because "spirituality" means different things to different people. The term "spirituality" inherits its meaning from the word "spirit", of which there are 14 different definitions in Webster's dictionary. With that many of definitions to choose from, it's practically certain that people talk past each other unless they make vigorous efforts to get their terminology straight.

Going through some of Webster's definitions for the term "spirit", I do believe—
  • there is "an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms" (definition 1).
  • we all have a "temper or disposition of mind or outlook, especially when vigorous or animated (definition 2)
  • each person has an intelligent or sentient part (definition 4).
Although I believe in spirituality in the sense of these definitions, there are other definitions of spirit by which I don't believe in spirituality. Specifically—
  • I don't believe there are supernatural beings or essences (definition 2). Whatever spirits we have are natural ones.
  • I don't believe the intelligent or sentient part of each person is immaterial (definition 4 again). Whatever intelligence and senses we have derives from material interactions and patterns inherent in our bodies.

Getting back to your question, do I recognise a non-theist or atheist form of spirituality"? It depends on your usage of words. Pick one, and use it consistently. But in my usage of words, for what it's worth, the answer is yes. Yes, I believe in a materialist form of spirituality.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 01:19 pm
PS: If you're interested in a book-length exposition on the material workings of our brains, and how souls, free will, etc. emerge from them, I recommend Daniel Dennett: Freedom Evolves. Penguin Press (2004)
spiritual anrkst
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 02:43 pm
I have always been a fan of Dennet. Here is a part of a review I found on the book Freedom Evolves.


Dennett's Foil: Robert Kane's View of Free Willhttp://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--766-The_Dogmatic_Determinism_Daniel_Dennett.aspx

That the nature of causality is vitally important for the free will versus determinism issue is highlighted by Dennett's critique of what he regards as "the best attempt so far" to defend free will against determinism: that of Robert Kane in his book The Significance of Free Will (Oxford University Press, 1996). Kane recognizes that free will is relevant to action in those cases in which a person has to choose between two contradictory courses of action and has strong reasons for both. However, he shares Dennett's event-event view of causality and dogmatic rejection of agent causation. To avoid acknowledging agent causation while also avoiding determinism, Kane tries to base free will on quantum indeterminacies that may occur in the atoms of the brain during the process of deliberating on the reasons for alternative actions, which make the person's final choice of action undetermined. Dennett easily demolishes the theory, correctly demonstrating that such quantum indeterminacies do not in any way help give the person control of his actions or provide support for holding the person responsible for them. "

But when examined this conclusion does not hold up as the only conclusion. Quantum indeterminism could be awareness itself in this case my soul. If this were the case then it is my soul that determines my actions. So I do have free will. In quantum physics possibilities collapse into probabilities and probabilities collapse into actualities. But in reality every time I make a decision I can change my mind. How many times can I change my mind. Theoretically I can change my mind an infinite amount of times. If I decide to go to the movies tomorrow the next morning I can decide not to go. I can make plans to do something else.

When we say "my plans fell through" it implies that due to circumstance beyond my control my alternative plans simply were not feasible. If this were to happen then I could change my mind once again and go see a movie. But in each case it is me that is deciding. Many times when someone wants to do something badly enough they can conquer the odds (The probabilities in QM) and find a way to do things even when things are against them. In the laws of physics if a coin falls not only does it eventually have to hit the ground but it has to collapse the probability of heads or tails when it does. It can not decide not to land. In the same way it is assumed that indetermism in QM can not allow for freewill. Any time we make a decision in life it is not only assumed that we must always choose between one action and another but that this choice has already been predetermined at birth. Somehow from this

Dennet wants to posit freewill as reason for morals without actually accepting freewill. Just as the theologian wants to answer the problem of Evil in theology with freewill even though theology teaches there is no such thing. Apparently God gives us the freewill to choose to follow God or not then test us to see how we use this gift by sending someone he has already designed to believe in him. So when an atheist meets a christian he is temporarily given freewill to accept or reject Jesus. If he accepts Jesus then his freewill is gone he now will do Gods will. If he rejects Jesus then God takes away his will to resist Satan. Of course this is what Christians believe this is not what theology or the bible teaches. Theology teaches that we never have freewill. God wills us to be believers or nonbelievers. God then test his creations to see how well they follow his design.

So somehow we are designed to act as if we are believers or nonbelievers acting out of freewill. For all intents and purposes of theology we have freewill to choose to be a believer or not but God already know what we will choose at any given moment. God wills everything to happen. This creates his design. Every time we resist his will we are exercising our own freewill but we can only resist according to the parameters of his design. He then rewards or punishes us based on his whim which Christians call grace. The scientist gives me the same type of predetermined will. Dennet doesn't seem to offer a freewill of indeterminism. In fact he claims that indeterminacy can affect reality on every level but one Consciousness.

"Dennett defends a particular form of determinism known as compatibilism. This is the view that the concept of free will should be redefined so that it no longer involves a free choice among alternatives and can thus be made compatible with the mechanist/reductionist model of the universe. "

To me this idea of freewill like the theological version it isn't even coherent let alone worth having.

"For Dennett, the significance of free will is that it is the basis of morality and moral responsibility, of engaging in moral judgment and holding people responsible for their actions. His thesis is that while free will in the ordinary sense is an illusion, these consequences of free will are real and compatible with his deterministic model of the universe, so free will should be redefined to refer to these consequences. Dennett suggests that calling an action "freely chosen" should not mean that the person had some other possible alternative action (which Dennett claims is never true), but rather should mean that we are justified in holding the person morally responsible for that action: "In other words, the fact that free will is worth wanting can be used to anchor our conception of free will in a way metaphysical myths fail to do"

Again I have to disagree with Dennet. He is offering the old theological model of freewill that Christianity used to justify theological morality. Having freewill can not be true so has no value in itself but believing in freewill allows us to create morals. Our society attempts to control us with psychiatrist and priest. If we had freewill in a real sense then both religion and behaviorism loses its power over us.

We can no longer be converted or social engineered into good citizens. If we actually have a soul that is independent of any behavioral reductionism or theological construct of obedience we might all become spiritual anarchist holding no authority higher than our own soul. Well I for one am already a spiritual anarchist and I hope one day to live in a world of spiritual anarchist because freedom means nothing if you can not exercise it.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 03:54 pm
@Thomas,
Interesting. Your notion of spirituality is somewhat similar to the Stoics. They believe spirit to be a fine material essence however they are materialist. On the other hand, I am not a materialist, and I detest Dennett, I am sorry to say. As regards the elusive nature of spirit, to start with, we we don't understand enough about nature to know what is 'super' to it . But there are plenty of scientific and philosophical arguments against 'bottom-up causality' and I think both generic and neurological determinism have been discredited by science itself. There is probably not enough space here to go into the details. But thanks for your reply.

I never really get the angst about free will. It always seemed to me that the purpose of philosophical discipline was to discover the unconditioned and see through our own social conditioning and the roles we are forced into by society.
stevecook172001
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 04:01 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
spiritual anrkst wrote:

I would like to hear from atheist that reject all forms of spiritual ideas. Most Atheist I encounter are very comfortable debating or disproving Judaic-Christian mythology as well as Muslim belief etc I do not belong to any religion or have any theological beliefs myself.

So to make my question clear I want to know what philosophical reasoning leads most atheist to reject all spirituality even when the spiritual ideas presented are stripped of religion or theology? If atheist applied the same type of reasoning to quantum physics that they typically apply to the idea of a soul or reincarnation the exploration of physics beyond Newton would come to a screeching halt.

In fact quantum physics seems to point to awareness (The Observer) as the cause behind random events overthrowing determinism much to the chagrin of atheist and theological determinist alike. Most atheist like predetermined behaviorism just as theologians like predetermined design to prove their God concepts. And for the same reason. So that those in power can dominate the sheep who give up their freewill to appease the psychology of "the norm" so as to fit in or to appease the church they belong to that they are obedient so they can get the benefit of the group.

So my question remains why reject all metaphysical questions relating to spiritual ideas just because religion is obviously blind and misguided? Why agree to be an unquestioning cog in the behaviorist machine to avoid being one of the religious sheep? What is wrong with replacing Descartes meditations on "I think therefor I am" With "I am aware therefor I have freewill"? For me I can doubt that I think.

Maybe thoughts simply occur because my brain is wired for language. My brain could be generating random words and I am simply rejecting what I have been programmed to believe by society as nonsensical or non adaptive etc and accepting the thoughts that my brain generates randomly that seem to benefit me... as my own... not because I created these thoughts... but simply because this has been the type of thinking that has benefited me in the past.

This would explain consensus or conformist thinking such as religious thinking when the benefits of "belonging" outweigh the disadvantages of nonsensical reasoning. So I can doubt that I think. And I can believe thoughts just "happen" to me no different than me tuning into a radio station over other stations because that type of music appeals to me. My thoughts are not me. I have experienced a sense of self without any thoughts occurring whatsoever but I have never had any experience where I had no awareness.

I can not blame this on my senses receiving input. Even in sensory deprivation there is awareness. Sometimes I am awake before my body wakes. I can not sense my body at all yet I exist and I am aware. So if I am not my thoughts and I am not my senses and I am not my body...then I must be my awareness because there is nothing left for me to be unless I do not exist at all.

But if that were the case then somebody must be imagining me. Unless you are a nihilist or solipsist you must admit that my argument that the only thing I can not doubt if my awareness and from my awareness I can infer that I exist. If observation creates reality then quantum physics can be used to prove together with the premise that I am my awareness to prove that I not only exist but that I am free in a way that is relevant to the argument for freewill. This does not prove I have a soul but I moves the question out of the domain of pure speculation.

This does not automatically open the door for religion or religious concepts of God. Yet the atheist will argue against the soul usually without even considering the points I just made because religion has all but demanded that the soul can only be discussed in a religious context. Why do atheist give them this? Why do atheist just give religion this power so that if an atheist were ever to decide on any basis that maybe they did have a soul they would have to convert by default to some nonsensical faith or religion? Do I need to choose between accepting an invisible man in the sky that controls me like a puppet or being the end result of a chemical bath of my brain? Isn't this the fallacy of the false alternative?

As an atheist, I do not have any spiritualist beliefs of any kind, either in personal terms or in terms of an organised religious belief structure. My reasons are simple. There is no evidence to justify such beliefs.

Whilst it is true that the quantum world is throwing up some interesting things regarding the nature of causality etc, these are very early days and who knows what form a final theory of reality will take, if indeed such a theory is even attainable for creatures such as ourselves, existing as we do within the physical constraints of the 4 dimensions of space-time that we do. There may be other aspects of this material universe we can never intellectually access simply because of the way our brains work. However, I do hold to the idea that the universe and all that exists within it is still explicable in principle, even though, as I have said, we humans may never be able to access a full understanding in practice.

What I utterly reject, though, is the intellectually and morally weak-minded alternative which is, in the absence of easy answers, take the spiritualist/religious short cut to revelation that seems to be an unfortunate tendency of our species.

I guess it's understandable at one level. We have brains that are evolved to look for patterns in the world. This has proved very useful in terms of survival. However, one of the downsides is that, when we are unable to discern a pattern in any given arena, we tend to make sh*t up, such is our deeply hard-wired need to see such patterns.
0 Replies
 
 

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