Pharyngula

The Spiritual Brain

I tried. I really, honestly, sincerely tried. I’ve been struggling with this book, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, for the past week and a half, and I’ve finally decided it’s not worth the effort. It’s just about completely unreadable.

The writing is aggravating. It is constantly broken up with strings of quotes — 3, 4, 5, or 6 at a time — that are just plopped out there to speak for themselves, and often the authors don’t even bother to address the points brought up in the quotes. It’s like, presto, John Eccles said it! Or Steven Weinberg said it! Or some random guy on the internet said it! It begins to wear on the reader, and you start to assume you can just skip over the stupid quotes, and then they refer to something in one that you need to know to understand what the heck they’re talking about. You just can’t trust that it’s only filler, even though it is 95% of the time.

Trust is a big problem here. Look, this is a book that advocates pure woo, that the brain is some kind of receiver for supernatural forces, and it quotes Carl Sagan in several places. Carl Sagan would not have been on their side. Quote the man to argue against him, but don’t quote him to pretend that his remarks bolster your argument—yet that’s precisely what the authors do. The reader quickly learns suspicion, that since they’re quoting out of context on the material we already know, maybe everything else is suspect, too.

And then there are the errors…stupid, piddling errors. Can you tell what is wrong with this paragraph from the book?

The average neuron, consisting of about 100,000 molecules, is about 80 percent water. The brain is home to about 100 billion such cells and thus about 1015 molecules. Each neuron gets 10,000 or so connections from other cells in the brain.

Even my slow and sluggish brain, numbed by a preceding volley of quotes from B.F. Skinner, Ray Kurzweil, Gerald Edelman, and Francis Crick, responded to that with rising incredulity. 100,000 molecules? Total? What? That can’t be right. Visions of clathrin complexes, chains of microtubules, actin filaments, and neurofilaments spun through my head, and then I hit the comment about 10,000 synaptic connections to a single cell and wondered why the authors didn’t see the obvious: you mean there are about 10 molecules, total, for each synapse? That’s complete nonsense. You can’t even make the contents of a single synaptic vesicle with that.

And when I noticed that 105 molecules in 1011 cells would mean a total of 1016 molecules, and they couldn’t even get the basic math in their own estimate right, I had to put the book down and leave it to rot for a few days.

What was the point of this calculation? Merely to generate incredulity that a bunch of big numbers could “produce our identities”. The paragraph went on, after a two-page interruption of a section on “The Brain as a Complex Computer” in big gray boxes with quotes from Steven Pinker, Mark Halpern, and Richard Selzer, to explain that “Within each neuron, the molecules are replaced approximately 10,000 times in an average life span. Yet humans have a continuous sense of self that is stable over time.”

AAAAAAIEEE. Yes? So? The function of the neuron and the brain is not tied in any way to the single molecules of which it is made, but the pattern and identity of the bits and pieces. I could re-shingle the roof of my house, strip out the drywall and replace it, and replace the floors, but it would still be my house — bits would be shinier and do a better job of keeping out the rain, but it would still be the same place. Heck, if I were made of money, we could replace the wiring and plumbing and much of the framing, jack it up, remodel the basement, rotate the whole house 90°, and put it back down. As long as we redid it piece by piece, there’d never be an instant where I’d say, “this is not my house.”

Oh, and I don’t believe that number “10,000”. In fact, I don’t believe any numbers in the book anymore.

It doesn’t help that this dull nullity of a statement is then followed by a quote from Dean Radin that is supposed to help us recognize its importance.

All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter? This question is not easily answered by the assumptions of a mechanistic, purely materialistic science.

Uh, yes it is. An intact brain and a brain that has been run through a blender are two different things, even if they do contain exactly the same molecules. The organization of the brain is the important element; you can swap out components gradually while still retaining the order…and order and organization are not supernatural properties. This isn’t that hard to understand.

The subsequent quotes from Steven Pinker, Thomas Huxley, Francis Crick, V.S. Ramachandran, Jean-Pierre Changeux, Michael Lemonick in the next page and half don’t help either. Nor do the quotes from Daniel Dennett, Tom Clark, and Steve Pinker (twice) on the next page. (Steve Pinker is very popular in this book. He ought to ask for a cut of the royalties — he seems to have written whole paragraphs for the authors.)

You get the idea. The format of the book is to throw out some briefly stated “fact” about the awesome power of the brain which the authors purport is unexplainable by natural processes, followed by hammering the reader with the weight of multiple authorities in quote after quote, and it doesn’t matter whether said authority actually supports the issue in contention…toss ’em out there! In fact, reading this book is quite comparable to my previous example of running a brain through a blender. Your brain. Beauregard and O’Leary are the motor. The blades they’re spinning are semi-random quotes from any damn source lying about.

I skimmed ahead. Later, they cite near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences as evidence for an external source for the mind, and credulously state that psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis are real. There is a longish chapter (Many quotes! Blocks of text with biographies of Carmelite nuns!) That describes fMRI studies of nuns experiencing, they say, mystical feelings of various intensities. The results: their brain activity during these episodes is complex, therefore the materialists are wrong when they assign simple causes (which is news to me; who thinks mystical brain states would be simple? Raise your hands) and that the “hard problem” of consciousness won’t be solved by materialists. Who will solve it?

But that hard problem ceases to be a problem once we understand the universe itself as a product of consciousness. We might expect living beings to evolve towards consciousness if consciousness underlies the universe. Consciousness is an irreducible quality.

We are all in the middle of a Great Floating Galactic Brain! All we have to do is realize that everything is conscious, and the problem of consciousness goes away! It’s a variant of the “goddidit” answer so dear to creationists: “godisit”.

I set the book aside again to decay a bit for a few days, in the forlorn hope that the cosmic consciousness would infiltrate my cranium and give me the power to cope. But then, this morning, I read a review of the book by Bryan Appleyard.

You have to understand something here. I utterly detest Bryan Appleyard. He’s a fan of Intelligent Design; as an interviewer, he’s a pretentious twit; he didn’t like Steven Berlin Johnson’s Mind Wide Open (a book I’ve used in my neurobiology class before) because it treated the mind as “the deterministic workings of mere chemistry”. He seems like the male British counterpart to Denyse O’Leary, with ideas that would be perfectly aligned with each other. I dreaded the possibility that they might meet, fall in love, and together hatch a swarm of anencephalic pod-children who’d all go to church three times a day. If there was one reviewer on the planet for whom this book was written, it’s Bryan Appleyard.

And he gives it a critical review.

Sure, he goes rah-rah over the anti-materialist spirit of the book, and he clearly wants to like it — most of his review ignores the work and consists of sniping at scientists, which is typical Appleyard — but then he says that their “conclusions are speculative” and “evidence is patchy” and that the religious experiences described are not “demonstrably different in kind from anything encountered in material science” (“None of which devalues the overall message of this book,” he then says, which is again classic Appleyard. Who needs solid evidence?) And he also highlights the clumsy pattern of cobbled-together quotes that characterizes the writing.

Whoa. Bryan Appleyard has reservations about the book. That tells you how bad it has got to be. If you show your new baby to your sister, and she doesn’t scrunch up her face and say “OOOH, she’s cute widdle one!” but instead starts talking about the miracles plastic surgery can do, you know you’ve got a really ugly baby. This book is one ugly baby. It’s the baby that would inspire your sister to get her tubes tied to prevent the possibility of repeating your mistake.

Don’t buy this book. Stick your brain in a blender first. If you want a short, safe feel for what the whole thing is like, Beauregard has an article online (it opens with a quote, but only one, thank Waring), but I’ll say nothing more — I’ve read half his book, a sufficiently painful experience. Fortunately, Shelley skewers him with a sneer. Read that instead.

Shelley also uses the word “crackpottish,” not me.

I disagree. That pot ain’t cracked, it’s pulverized and powdered. It’s a smear of dust. It’s gone to the Great Kiln in the Sky. It’s a non-pot. It has ceased to hold soil. It is soil. You could point a gentleman to the spot with the pot, and he’d have to use his imagination—and even at that, the best he’d be able conjure up in his head would be a loose pile of gravel. You know the phrase, “He hasn’t got a pot to piss in”? That’s this pot. This pot is fractured, splintered, split, shattered, blown to flinders, smashed, demolished, obliterated.

So no, I’m not going to make the mistake of calling this a work of crackpottery.

Comments

  1. #1 Caledonian
    October 2, 2007

    Why do they feel the need to mention the (asserted) fact that neurons are 80% water? This (asserted) fact doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the (incorrect) calculations that follow.

    Or is it just because they think people will learning that the brain is mostly water and fat, and conclude that those very common things can’t possibly be involved in generating the mind? It’s only water, after all…

  2. #2 Rey Fox
    October 2, 2007

    Come on man, don’t sugarcoat! Tell it like it is!

  3. #4 Brain Hertz
    October 2, 2007

    I’m confused. Why did you even start reading a book on Neuroscience co-authored by Denyse O’Leary?

  4. #5 Ken Cope
    October 2, 2007

    Sounds like a train wreck of a book. Which reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes, from Frank Zindler:

    To believe that consciousness can survive the wreck of the brain is like believing that 70 mph can survive the wreck of the car.

    I’ll bet it didn’t make it into the book.

  5. #6 Peter Hollo
    October 2, 2007

    Brian Appleyard is beneath contempt.
    But I take your point, yes… ouchie.

  6. #7 Simba B
    October 2, 2007

    The Comic Sans MS! It buuurnnns!

  7. #8 Acleron
    October 2, 2007

    He seems like the male British counterpart to Denyse O’Leary, with ideas that would be perfectly aligned with each other.< \b>
    Much as I like your general thoughts, please be a little more circumspect before throwing out insults like this, after all you are only a mere colonist who has misused not only the continent you have taken over but totally abused the natives and is now intent on polluting the whole world. By the way, a scrophulous merkin would improve your MPB. 😉

  8. #9 Acleron
    October 2, 2007

    Sorry, missed out ther closing bold tag.

  9. #10 SMC
    October 2, 2007

    Why do they feel the need to mention the (asserted) fact that neurons are 80% water?

    Isn’t it obvious? It must be because the mind is homeopathic, right?…

    (How much would you have to dilute a mind before it became omniscient? And how many more days do we have before this level of dilution is reached in the the developed world?…)

  10. #11 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    October 2, 2007

    I now regret that I promised a friend I would read this book in exchange for him reading I Sold My Soul on E-Bay. He got a book he enjoys. I get dregs.

    Friendship. What a pain in the ass.

  11. #12 Hemant
    October 2, 2007

    Does this mean the authors are going to sue you now? 🙂

  12. #13 Blake Stacey
    October 2, 2007

    Ahem.

    The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans. But there is no evidence that its functioning is due to anything more than the 1014 neural connections that build an elegant architecture of consciousness.

    That’s from Cosmos (1980), p. 278.

    You know, Carl Sagan would never have called Denyse O’Leary a demented fuckwit. But a few of you have met me, and you can all agree that I am no Carl Sagan.

  13. #14 John Morales
    October 2, 2007

    AAAAAAIEEE.

    I hear your pain.

  14. #15 PZ Myers
    October 2, 2007

    I specifically said I wouldn’t call it a work of crackpottery! So they can’t sue me.

    At least not for that.

  15. #16 MAJeff
    October 2, 2007

    This book is one ugly baby. It’s the baby that would inspire your sister to get her tubes tied to prevent the possibility of repeating your mistake.

    What a beautiful line.

  16. #17 Rick Schauer
    October 2, 2007

    “Later, they cite near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences as evidence for an external source for the mind, and credulously state that psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis are real.”

    -Funny, doesn’t sound like they cited Dr. Susan Blackmore who gave up her studies in near-death and after-life studies after reading and understanding Darwin and Dawkins.

  17. #18 markp
    October 2, 2007

    SMC– you totally just used your telepathic powers to steal the joke I was going to make.

  18. #19 Physicalist
    October 2, 2007

    Sounds like they’re not even familiar with the basic arguments presented in a philosophy of mind section of an Intro to Philosophy class. I suppose I may have to look at it at some point though (have to keep an eye on those folks).

    I liked this from the web article:

    neuroscience studies of contemplative nuns demonstrate that God exists? No, but they can — and did — demonstrate that the mystical state of consciousness really exists.

    .

    So if the neuro-research had shown that nothing happens during “mystical” states, then our anti-materialist would have concluded that these states don’t exist? A perfectly good conclusion, says I. But not a very good dualism! (Which is why you shouldn’t oughta be a dualist, says I.)

  19. #20 Blake Stacey
    October 2, 2007

    As far as negative book reviews go, this is one of the most enjoyable I’ve read in a while. I think it’s actually better than PZ’s take on Pivar; it’s up there with Geoff Pullum’s review of The Da Vinci Code.

  20. #21 Bad
    October 2, 2007

    The brain in a blender thing is sort of funny, because I thought the same thing in response to Deepak Chopra’s “if I say Quantum Mechanics, do I win a prize?” review of Dawkins’ God Delusion. This Spiritual Brain book basically sounds like the extended version of the Choprawoo that so disappointed me.

    It’s just so frustrating that people like O’Leary can get away with claiming that “materialism” cannot explain this or that, but when it comes time for them to give THEIR big solution to the problem, it turns out it’s all just inexplicable magic.

    I mean, I read books to discover neat things I could have never thought of myself: insights and surprises at rally neat solutions to mysteries. Now I’ll fully admit that we don’t have any good answers as to what conscious experience is, and only hints of how it works, but “don’t worry about it, everything is conscious and it’s like, totally awesome! Even Steven Pinker maybe thinks so!” is just so darn DISAPPOINTING.

  21. #22 Sastra
    October 2, 2007

    It always surprises me when dualists cite the complexity of the brain as evidence that mind and consciousness must come from somewhere else. You can kind of understand using that sort of argument for design — this brain is sooo complicated it couldn’t have built up by gradual stages — but not for refuting materialistic theories of mind/brain physical dependency.

    If, when examined, the brain turned out to have the ornate complexity and structure of a potato, then theories which invoked spiritual forms of dualism would be pretty much inescapable. There’s nothing there to do any work. A potato-brain would have been strong, clear evidence against materialism.

    But the more complicated the brain is, the more likely it is that all that stuff in there is actually doing something complicated. How the heck could they not see this obvious connection? They can’t have potato-brains because nobody does.

  22. #23 JNR
    October 2, 2007

    PZ, why do I feel this quote is going to appear on O’Leary’s next book “I could re-shingle the roof of my house, strip out the drywall and replace it, and replace the floors, but it would still be my house — bits would be shinier and do a better job of keeping out the rain, but it would still be the same place.”

    Didn’t you just admit the brain is “irreducibly complex” and designed like a house? No, you didn’t but that won’t stop someone else…

  23. #24 mcow
    October 2, 2007

    Infuriating on so many levels! I’ll grant that there’s validity to the idea that science has not quite answered the “self” question. I’ll even grant that the tendency of some scientists to wave the question away as a meaningless semantic argument is frustrating. But you know what’s even more frustrating? Flaky pseudoscience!

    It all comes down to tedious this game of “Gotcha!” that religious idiots love to play. Stung by the unceremonious disembowelment of their beloved god, they try to fight back, saying “Science might have improved our lives in countless ways and led us to a deeper understanding of the universe, but oh hoh! Science can’t explain …” blah blah blah.

    Inevitably, the supposedly unanswerable question falls into one of three categories:
    1. Something science hasn’t explained yet.
    2. Something science has explained. Repeatedly.
    3. Not actually a real question.

    Many would say that the “self” question belongs to the third category, and in some ways it does. It is suspicious that nobody seems to be able to pose the question in a way that can even be tackled scientifically. But if there is a real question here, someone will eventually find a way to ask it, and given science’s track record, I think it’s fair to assume that science will eventually find an answer.

    Why are the “faithful” so goddamned pessimistic?

  24. #25 Abie
    October 2, 2007

    It’s a small world…
    Just yesterday, I stumbled upon Mario Beauregard while sighing over the website of new woo-ish institution : the Institute for Research on Extraordinary Experiences, that just opened up in Paris and is “dedicated to the study of currently unexplainable human experiences”.

    I noticed him because he is one of the two neuroscientists in th support commitee, and googled him a bit. So your review comes as no surprise !

  25. #26 John Marley
    October 2, 2007

    mcow:

    I’m totally stealing that.

  26. #27 Bad
    October 2, 2007

    “It is suspicious that nobody seems to be able to pose the question in a way that can even be tackled scientifically.”

    Heck, if someone could pose it in a way that was intelligible even philosophically, that would be something. But even philosophers don’t seem to have any good idea how to talk about it or think about “how” it functions. They’ve invented a lot of cutesy names like “Qualia” and come up with some intriguing thought experiments about bats and zombies, but no one has even explained what an “explanation” of subjective experience would look like in even a general sense, whether naturally, supernaturally, or whatever the hell you want to try.

  27. #28 Christian Burnham
    October 2, 2007

    This post was 4360 X more enlightening than average.

    However, it was a bit long, running at over ONE BILLION words, which took me 2.314 seconds to read.

    (All of the above figures were checked (1^329)-1 times.)

  28. #29 PZ Myers
    October 2, 2007

    So it must have taken you 1.13 seconds per word to read? I think my math is correct on that one.

  29. #30 Spartacus
    October 2, 2007

    This post is so rich with commentable sections that I just don’t where to start. So, I won’t and just say this. The book you had difficulty reviewing sounds like more directed obfuscation. You picked up on this and many rational, as I suspect many clear-thinking, rational folks would, and have the same reaction. Barf.

    No. This book is aimed at people who don’t know any better, who are impressed by lots of important looking quotes and purported facts they neither have the time nor the subject matter expertise to refute.

    Thanks PZ! I’m new to your site and I plan to keep tabs on it from time to time. This was an inspired piece. Hopefully, the first of many I’ll read by your hand.

  30. #31 Stanton
    October 2, 2007

    So, um, was this “book” a better or worse read than, say, Edge of Evolution or Darwin’s Black Box?

  31. #32 Theo Bromine
    October 2, 2007

    The latest (and worst) example of chemistry math I have seen was a description of Halon in a computer security course:

    Halons are combinations of the following chemically related elements: Carbon, Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine.
    Halon 1211 is a combination of the ratio 1:2:1:1 of the above elements

    Sure, just throw all those chemicals in a jar in the right ratio and shake well.

  32. #33 PalMD
    October 2, 2007

    Shel-ly’s gonna get su-ed…
    That “c” word again! I know of a good publicist…

  33. #34 PZ Myers
    October 2, 2007

    Behe’s trash is as wrong as Beauregard’s/O’Leary’s, but at least has the virtue of being written professionally and with a consistent voice. The Spiritual Brain is worse because its awesomely bad style makes it impenetrable, but it’s also better because its awesomely bad style means it will die a quick death and be buried in remainder bins everywhere.

  34. #35 Stanton
    October 2, 2007

    In that case, I will schedule an appointment with my dentist to scrape my gums with a steel wool sponge before I shell out money to buy this book.

  35. #36 natural cynic
    October 2, 2007

    All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists

    Uh, DNA?
    Ever heard of it?

  36. #37 Chris Noble
    October 2, 2007

    The writing is aggravating. It is constantly broken up with strings of quotes — 3, 4, 5, or 6 at a time that are just plopped out there to speak for themselves, and often the authors don’t even bother to address the points brought up in the quotes.

    This seems to be a common aspect of most types of pseudoscience. Scientific writing in general does not use many quotations. If you refer to research done by others you paraphrase the relevant finding (readers will be annoyed if the paraphrase does not correspond to the data in the paper”. Pseudoscientists look for quotes that can be taken out of context and appear to support their position. The quotes are supposed to “speak for themselves” and divert responsibility from the pseudoscientist. It is intended to create a veneer of objectivity to something that is clearly a subjective belief

  37. #38 Eric Davison
    October 2, 2007

    who thinks mystical brain states would be simple? Raise your hands

    I was stretching and had my hands in the air as I read this part, and immediately put them down by my side.

  38. #39 Graeme Elliott
    October 2, 2007

    That has to be the funniest, and the most damning way of not calling someone a crackpot i’ve ever seen…

  39. #40 tacitus
    October 2, 2007

    Sounds like O’Leary’s books are as hard to read as her blog posts.

    By the way, she’s been a busy little beaver on the publishing front recently:

    My two children’s science books just published!

    I can’t find Alien Worlds or Living in Space, both for the Grade 6 level, on the Internet yet, but I am looking at copies.

    They have just been published by Thomson Duval as part of the Reading for Real series.

    On the whole, the illustrators did an excellent job and the editors stayed true to my concept.

    But they turned my girl characters into guys!

    WHY did they do that? Reasonable thoughts welcome!

    http://post-darwinist.blogspot.com/2007/09/my-two-childrens-science-books-just.html

    Pity the poor students who end up with these books to study.

  40. #41 Greta Christina
    October 2, 2007

    “All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter?”

    This is just…. ERRRR!

    Okay. Deep breath. My favorite analogy for showing why this is wrong: English country dancing. Last month I did some English country dances that were originally written and a danced a couple of centuries ago, by people who are long dead. But the pattern — the dance — remains, and will continue as long as there are people doing English country dancing.

    Is there any need for a dualist/ spiritualist/ woo explanation for this phenomenon? No, there is not. It’s very straightforward. The dances were written down. People passed them down from generation to generation. Not rocket science.

    The fact that patterns remain when the original physical material used to express that pattern is gone is hardly surprising. For heaven’s sake, that’s what patterns DO, from dress patterns to recipes to musical notation to blueprints. That’s what makes it a pattern and not an object.

    And as natural cynic points out: DNA. Like, duh.

  41. #42 Monado
    October 3, 2007

    I haven’t read Chopra, so it sounds to me as if the authors studied at Mr. Kent Hovind’s school of rhetoric: “Spit ideas like watermelon seeds. Throw in random quotes. Who cares if they’re relevant. If the facts don’t fit, make some up. Confusion to teh enemy!”

  42. #43 bacopa
    October 3, 2007

    I think it can make sense to talk of a soul as long as we are not taken to commit to the existence of some weird dualistic “soul-stuff”. This more minimalist conception of the soul supervenes on the brain, the body, and perhaps other physical things and events if one is inclined toward a wide-content interpretation of mental states.

    Please note that this conception of the soul is perfectectly materialistic. Smash the brain and the soul is gone without the intervention of currently impossible technologies. As Nietzsche said: “Your soul will be dead even before your body.”

  43. #44 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    We already have the term ‘mind’, and it matches what you’ve suggested for ‘soul’.

    What do we need ‘soul’ for, then? It would seem to be a redundant synonym for mind.

  44. #45 Shem
    October 3, 2007

    Assigning someone credulous to review this book is sadly in keeping with the Inquirer’s book reviews, which tend to slant toward the conservative and Christian (which is odd, since the Inky is not an especially conservative paper otherwise). A month or two ago, they had a theologian review Behe’s book … without identifying him as a theologian.

    http://www.philly.com/inquirer/currents/20070819_Pa__scientist_again_attacks_evolution.html

  45. #46 Interrobang
    October 3, 2007

    Is there something equivalent to TalkOrigins for this kind of stuff? I’m asking, because I periodically get into arguments with my boyfriend (I’m the hard-headed one around here) about this stuff. His way of summing it up was, “You must believe that there’s something else other than just biology that makes us really alive!” and I said, “Why?” Personally, I’m kind of like a Wobbly — body, mind, it’s all just One Big Union. I’d really like to be able to, when he brings up the next dipshit point, go, “Uh, no, and see…”

    It seems so obvious to me, being handicapped and all, and watching how changes in my neurochemistry affect my behaviour, and how, no matter how hard I try, that “mind over matter” stuff really isn’t going to make the effects from the brain lesion(s?) go away; the only things I can practically do basically involve a “matter over matter” approach — retrain the neurons that took over for the damaged portions, and things get better. Stop practicing, and they might get worse again. From the way it looks behind my eyes, there’s no God of the Gaps here; there aren’t even any gaps. There’s just stuff for which we don’t currently have a good explanation.

    I guess that’s the part that must bother some people, that if we can’t currently explain it, then it must be supernatural or something.

  46. #47 Tulse
    October 3, 2007

    All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter?

    …says someone who stored words as electrons in a computer and had them come out as ink on pressed dead trees.

    Lucky God exists or people couldn’t make books!

  47. #48 Mike
    October 3, 2007

    “I’ve been struggling with this book, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, for the past week and a half”

    I wouldn’t read a book that had even been positively blurbed by Denyse O’Leary, never mind co-authored, without having been sentenced to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction and having exhausted my appeals, and I’m religious.

  48. #49 snaxalotl
    October 3, 2007

    amazing how people who talk about the hard problem of consciousness are never able to clearly describe the hard problem of consciousness. Effectively, it amounts to “I can think of a problem that’s too hard for you to solve, but I’m not going to tell you what it is”

    I’m glad it was you not me. Most times I’m unfortunate enough to read a few paragraphs of Denyse, I’m filled with an urge to kill

  49. #50 Rey Fox
    October 3, 2007

    “But the more complicated the brain is, the more likely it is that all that stuff in there is actually doing something complicated. How the heck could they not see this obvious connection?”

    Because they’re stupid stupid STUPID AAAARRRGH

  50. #51 mcow
    October 3, 2007

    What do we need ‘soul’ for, then? It would seem to be a redundant synonym for mind.

    This is the difficulty of the question. You try to phrase it using existing words and they come out as synonyms for things that have already been explained, but which aren’t quite what you mean. The “soul” or “self” or “ego” or whatever you want to call it is more of an aspect of the broader concept of the “mind” than a synonym or a separate concept. I personally sympathize with the desire to have an explanation for this, although until the question can actually be defined, trying to find an answer is ludicrous.

    This is the best way I can think of to ask the question, but it’s still not very good:
    Science tells us that I am essentially a fairly sophisticated biological computer running highly adaptable software which is capable of logical analysis and decision making based on perceived input, past experiences, genetics, and a handful of other parameters. Cool, that explains my behavior, my emotional responses, etc. But why am “I” here experiencing it? Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    Some claim that the “self” is merely a natural consequence of the complexity of the software. But that’s a pretty non-specific answer. Like I said above though, this isn’t a question that science can’t answer. It’s just a question that science hasn’t yet answered.

  51. #52 Kseniya
    October 3, 2007

    Ohhhhh, yeah.

    “All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter?”

    How preternaturally astonishing that she can write that sentence on HER computer, and I can read it on MINE.

    […] thank Waring […]

    A Mollyworthy phrase, though surely disqualified from consideration. 😉

  52. #53 Freddy the Pig
    October 3, 2007

    I suspect there are some DC3s flying around that have almost no original parts left in them, but are still DC3s. Do they think everything gets replaced at once in the brain? Maybe the authors actually have potato brains.

  53. #54 melior
    October 3, 2007

    you mean there are about 10 molecules, total, for each synapse?

    Yes, and 8 of them are H20! Now that’s some serious intelligent designing there.

  54. #55 j.t.delaney
    October 3, 2007

    Sir, I think you are judging their science far too hastily! In your rush to condemnation, you discount their claim of ” 1016” molecules in the brain…, which is 80% water. Being generous, this means that Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary estimate that their own brains have average masses of 0.37 ?g, each. I, for one, applaud them for their refreshing honesty and candor in these matters. It probably was not easy for them to make the decision to admit this in print (or any decisions at all, for that matter), and I would not tear them down as quickly as others might.
    How cheap and callous. I say good day to you, sir…

  55. #56 The Neurocritic
    October 3, 2007

    Here’s my take on the Neural Correlates of a Mystical Experience in Carmelite Nuns study by Beauregard and Paquette (2006).

    It’s most relevant to note that the nuns weren’t actually having a mystical experience in the scanner, they were remembering one. And it’s also interesting to note the similarities between brain activity in the Mystical and Control conditions, not only the differences.

  56. #57 Sam
    October 3, 2007

    You must believe that there’s something else other than just biology that makes us really alive!

    Try irony!

    “Yes, of course I believe in the magical undetectable ghosty-wosty that though completely immaterial somehow influences and directs my otherwise zombified bag of brains and bones without leaving a single trace. Why wouldn’t I?”

  57. #58 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Thanks PZ, better your brain through the blender than mine. 😛

    I think we will need a new description for this one. “Quote bomb”[*] is taken, so I will go with:

    Weapon of Mass Quotation.

    [* I learned a new expression today: “someone being quoted because they’re having a discussion. Quote bombs are quotes which spread the page and are quoting like 5000 things.” **]

    [[** Redirected through tinyurl since ScienceBlogs refused the muchmusic.com board link. @#$! spam filters.]]

  58. #59 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Thanks PZ, better your brain through the blender than mine. 😛

    I think we will need a new description for this one. “Quote bomb”[*] is taken, so I will go with:

    Weapon of Mass Quotation.

    [* I learned a new expression today: “someone being quoted because they’re having a discussion. Quote bombs are quotes which spread the page and are quoting like 5000 things.” **]

    [[** Redirected through tinyurl since ScienceBlogs refused the muchmusic.com board link. @#$! spam filters.]]

  59. #60 MartinM
    October 3, 2007

    I’ve been struggling with this book

    Leading Darwinist baffled by stunning new theory!

    I’ve finally decided it’s not worth the effort

    Panning the book without reading the whole thing? Censorship! Repression! Dogma!

    The writing is aggravating…they couldn’t even get the basic math in their own estimate right

    Picks on irrelevant trivia, while ignoring the substance!

    I utterly detest…treat[ing] the mind as “the deterministic workings of mere chemistry”.

    Ha!

    Stick your brain in a blender

    Typical barbaric Darwinist. We’ll all end up in the gulags if they take power.

    I’m not going to make the mistake of calling this a work of crackpottery.

    But even he, ultimately, is forced to agree with us!

    This response brought to you by the WayForward machine – predicting creationist drivel until 2387. And I, for one, welcome our cephalobot overlords.

  60. #61 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Oh, and this:

    But that hard problem ceases to be a problem once we understand the universe itself as a product of consciousness.

    So the IDC neuroscientist isn’t satisfied with explaining the mind? The same old irreducible strategy.

    Interrobang:

    I don’t now of any specific site for skeptic analyzes of soul woo. The worst socio-political movement to threat science or society lately has been creationism. But it could be a good idea, as the web increases exposure to pseudoscience and woo.

    Meanwhile, there are a few specialized sites that have material and link lists.

    If parapsychology is on your mind, you should probably try CSICOP directly, but their site was down when I write this.

  61. #62 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Oh, and this:

    But that hard problem ceases to be a problem once we understand the universe itself as a product of consciousness.

    So the IDC neuroscientist isn’t satisfied with explaining the mind? The same old irreducible strategy.

    Interrobang:

    I don’t now of any specific site for skeptic analyzes of soul woo. The worst socio-political movement to threat science or society lately has been creationism. But it could be a good idea, as the web increases exposure to pseudoscience and woo.

    Meanwhile, there are a few specialized sites that have material and link lists.

    If parapsychology is on your mind, you should probably try CSICOP directly, but their site was down when I write this.

  62. #63 Nigel D
    October 3, 2007

    Hmmm, let’s see. The brain is 80%, water, is it? (Actually, I think it might be closer to 70%, because parts of nerve cells have thick myelin sheaths, and myelin is a hydrophobic substance). A typical human brain weighs about 900 g (roughly). If it’s 80% water, that’s 720 g of water. The molecular weight of water (taking typical isotopic composition) is 18.015 grams per mole. (You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?).

    Thus, a typical brain contains 39.97 moles of water. Each mole comprises about 6.023 x 10^23 molecules. So, using Beauregard and O’Leary’s own figures (and a typical estimate of human brain mass), the brain has roughly 2.407 x 10^25 molecules just of water. Then there’s all the proteins, lipids, phospholipids, saccharides, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, coenzymes and cofactors, not to mention amino acids and, oh, let’s not forget the neurotransmitters. Or the ions that transmit nerve impulses along axons*.

    So, their estimate for the number of molecules in the brain is off by at least 10 orders of magnitude.

    * My neurophysiology is a bit of a dim and distant memory, so I’m not sure how many of the nerve cells in the brain actually have axons of significant length. But ions are still needed to transmit nerve impulses through and across nerve cells.

  63. #64 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    It doesn’t help that this dull nullity of a statement is then followed by a quote from Dean Radin that is supposed to help us recognize its importance.

    All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter? This question is not easily answered by the assumptions of a mechanistic, purely materialistic science.

    Parapsychologist Dean Radin, “Senior Scientist” at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, is a blithering idiot. Long ago, the Greeks noted that,if you replace the handle of your axe, it’s still your axe, and if you then replace the head of your axe, it’s still your axe, yet it shares no material with the original axe. This raises philosophical issues about the nature of identity, but in no way challenges “the assumptions of a mechanistic, purely materialistic science”.

  64. #65 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    But that hard problem ceases to be a problem once we understand the universe itself as a product of consciousness. We might expect living beings to evolve towards consciousness if consciousness underlies the universe. Consciousness is an irreducible quality.

    This is beyond idiotic, aside from being a series of non sequiturs. The “hard problem” is to explain how physical processes can produce subjective experience; what we might expect about the evolution of consciousness is utterly unrelated.

  65. #66 Felicia Gilljam
    October 3, 2007

    Hope no one here believes in intellectual osmosis. If it’s true we just all got a bit stupider.

  66. #67 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    Funny, doesn’t sound like they cited Dr. Susan Blackmore who gave up her studies in near-death and after-life studies after reading and understanding Darwin and Dawkins.

    Actually, she gave it up after spending decades looking for “paranormal” phenomena and finding nothing.

  67. #68 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    But why am “I” here experiencing it? Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    People who ask this sort of thing are much like those who ask why there aren’t any transitional fossils — ignorant of the scientific literature. I suggest “The Illusion of Conscious Will” by Daniel Wegner and “The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness” by Antonio Damasio.

  68. #69 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    I periodically get into arguments with my boyfriend (I’m the hard-headed one around here) about this stuff. His way of summing it up was, “You must believe that there’s something else other than just biology that makes us really alive!”

    Don’t live a life of misery — dump him and find an intellectual equal.

  69. #70 Jud
    October 3, 2007

    PZ wrote: “[T]hey…credulously state that psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis are real….[W]ho thinks mystical brain states would be simple? Raise your hands….”

    Better yet, anyone who thinks telekinesis is real, raise my hand.

  70. #71 Dunc
    October 3, 2007

    All of the material used to express that pattern has disappeared, and yet the pattern still exists. What holds this pattern, if not matter? This question is not easily answered by the assumptions of a mechanistic, purely materialistic science.

    So The Ford Motor Company has some kind of supernatural, non-material “soul”? Well, there’s a surprise!

  71. #72 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Being generous, this means that Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary estimate that their own brains have average masses of 0.37 ?g, each.

    This response brought to you by the WayForward machine – predicting creationist drivel until 2387. And I, for one, welcome our cephalobot overlords.

    Better yet, anyone who thinks telekinesis is real, raise my hand.

    ROTFLMAO! We have three new Molly nominees!

    (How many people have I promised to nominate for Molly in the last week?)

  72. #73 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 3, 2007

    Being generous, this means that Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary estimate that their own brains have average masses of 0.37 ?g, each.

    This response brought to you by the WayForward machine – predicting creationist drivel until 2387. And I, for one, welcome our cephalobot overlords.

    Better yet, anyone who thinks telekinesis is real, raise my hand.

    ROTFLMAO! We have three new Molly nominees!

    (How many people have I promised to nominate for Molly in the last week?)

  73. #74 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    The line about telekinesis is a very old one, Mr. Marjanovi?.

    Still, I suppose they’re oldies but goodies.

  74. #75 Stephen Wells
    October 3, 2007

    Is it worth pointing out that one of the things that leads to a subjective experience is that it’s happening to you, as opposed to that guy over there?

  75. #76 Jud
    October 3, 2007

    caledonian wrote regarding David Marjanovi?’s amusement at my (admittedly) old joke about telekinesis: “The line about telekinesis is a very old one, Mr. Marjanovi?.”

    True enough. The juxtaposition of telekinesis and hand-raising in a single paragraph of PZ’s post was a set-up too good to resist.

  76. #77 sgage
    October 3, 2007

    “Like I said above though, this isn’t a question that science can’t answer. It’s just a question that science hasn’t yet answered.”

    Well, it just might be a question that science can’t answer – to state otherwise is an act of faith.

    That said, even if it IS a question that science can’t answer doesn’t mean there are supernatural agencies involved. It simply means that it’s too complicated, subtle and tricky for us talking monkeys to figure out. This is a possibility. I am a realist and a materialist, but I can’t see why there can’t be processes and relationships that humans can’t wrap our minds around. Doesn’t imply godz or supernatural stuff.

    And it doesn’t mean that science shouldn’t be trying to answer it.

  77. #78 N.Wells
    October 3, 2007

    Egads: Denyse has hair, but it’s not the same hair she was born with, because it keeps growing at one end and being chopped off at the other. Yet she’s always had hair on her head, and may even have had the same hairstyle for decades. So according to Denyse’s logic, she must be some kind of receptor of noncorporeal hair radiating in over the hair waves, right? What else could explain it?.

  78. #79 sailor
    October 3, 2007

    Oh yes, our brains are ready to receive messages from the big outside. The synaptic connection comes in the form of sudden bursts of electric discharge otherwise known as lightning. The recipient gets an instant flash of illumination. Shame these authors were not enlightninged.

  79. #80 Sven DiMilo
    October 3, 2007

    thank Waring

    Ha! Very funny.
    But you forgot to thank his Pennsylvanians.
    (I’m pretty sure it’s the same Waring)

  80. #81 Brian
    October 3, 2007

    and together hatch a swarm of anencephalic pod-children who’d all go to church three times a day.

    Best. Line. Evar.

  81. #82 Jon
    October 3, 2007

    Yet humans have a continuous sense of self that is stable over time.

    Continuous sense of self? I lose my sense of self for 8 hour intervals every single night. It’s called “sleep”.

  82. #83 jack*
    October 3, 2007

    “Consciousness” won’t really be well defined until we have an sufficient explanation. “Heat” and “Life” were both vague woo-woo terms, primary phenomena that could not be reduced, until science showed how they could arise from matter. Now you can’t define heat without reference to statistical mechanics, or life without reference to evolution.

  83. #84 SteveM
    October 3, 2007

    “100,000 molecules”

    Not to be an apologist, but is it possible they mean 100k different molecules, not 100k total? (even if so, that still sounds low to me)

    I just find it inconceivable that even complete morons could be so far off, that they must have just phrased it badly. But even without bothering to do some simple arithmetic, I doubt even this correction will help their arithmetic any.

  84. #85 Sastra
    October 3, 2007

    Consciousness is an irreducible quality.

    No it’s not. That’s what studies in neuroscience are finding out, that’s what’s being discovered by looking at cases where people have bits of their brains sick or missing or damaged or fiddled with by electrodes. What feels like an irreducible, homogenous, continuous, holistic experience of self — “the ghost in the machine” — is actually cobbled together from parts, and divisible in interesting ways.

  85. #86 Sven DiMilo
    October 3, 2007

    “phrased it badly” and “Denyse O’Leary” are synonyms.

  86. #87 Chuck C
    October 3, 2007

    “Denyse O’Leary” and “completely unreadable” is redundant.

  87. #88 Warren
    October 3, 2007

    Within each neuron, the molecules are replaced approximately 10,000 times in an average life span. Yet humans have a continuous sense of self that is stable over time.

    Within my bowels, the molecules are consumed, transformed and excreted 10,000 times in my average week; and yet I have a continuous sense of bullshit so refined that I know a steaming foot-long turd when I see it.

    Fucking retards. Them and their audience. It’s time to start a Soylent program and put these inbred mouth-breathers to practical use for the first time in their sad, pointless existences.

  88. #89 PZ Myers
    October 3, 2007

    is it possible they mean 100k different molecules, not 100k total?

    Notice that they went on to use their 100K number to make a calculation of the total number of molecules in the brain. I don’t think they could be imagining that each neuron has a different suite of molecules.

    What am I saying? Of course they could be imagining that. I shouldn’t underestimate their stupidity so.

  89. #90 Marcus Ranum
    October 3, 2007

    Sastra writes:
    If, when examined, the brain turned out to have the ornate complexity and structure of a potato, then theories which invoked spiritual forms of dualism would be pretty much inescapable. There’s nothing there to do any work. A potato-brain would have been strong, clear evidence against materialism.

    That’s my “take away” for the day. What a profound observation, and so well-put. Seriously! It’s one of those kind of “duuuuuuuuu?” arguments that’s incredibly useful for putting down woo.

    Thank you!

  90. #91 David Harmon
    October 3, 2007

    Lots of great lines from both PZ and the commenter here! Some riffs:

    sailor: “Oh yes, our brains are ready to receive messages from the big outside.”

    Indeed, we can receive messages in a variety of ways: EM radiation (380 – 770 nm), pressure waves (20Hz up to 20 kHz), a variety of chemical signals, a whole bunch of contact sensors on our surface, a horde of status reports from within our bodies, and possibly a few other signals such as weak magnetic fields. And then there’s our interpretive abilities….

    N. Wells: …receptor of noncorporeal hair radiating in over the hair waves, right? What else could explain it?.”

    LOL! (And if you use enough hair gel, can you form your current hair into antennae to receive more?)

    Theo Bromine: Carbon, Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine.
    Halon 1211 is a combination of the ratio 1:2:1:1 of the above elements…
    “Sure, just throw all those chemicals in a jar in the right ratio and shake well.”

    And then run away!

  91. #92 Hector
    October 3, 2007

    Why on earth do you use Comic Sans?

  92. #93 CJO
    October 3, 2007

    Cool, that explains my behavior, my emotional responses, etc. But why am “I” here experiencing it? Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    Yes, that’s the “hard problem.” Which, as somebody pointed out above, is apparently so hard to some of its adherents, that answering it is not allowed. After all, it’s much too hard! I’m not convinced.
    That “I” is your behavior and your emotional responses (and your perceptions, memories, etc.).
    Often, I think, when people ask the question in these terms, they overestimate the degree to which these things are explained.

  93. #94 Timcol
    October 3, 2007

    Thanks for the great review PZ!!! I had seriously thought about buying this book but now I’ll think I will wait. Maybe when I can get it for $1 in the remainder bin at Barnes & Noble…

    I hope you will post your review up at Amazon.

    You made a good point about O’Leary’s meandering writing ‘style’. I frequently read her blogs and it often leaves me scratching my head in bafflement. Sometimes I’ve read her posts 2-3 times and I still haven’t got the point. Considering she is supposedly a journalist, has she never heard that a good article should have a beginning, a middle and an ending (with a point?)

    Here’s a good example, fresh off the press:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/banned-books-week-at-least-one-dinosaur-survived-after-all/

    I defy anybody to make head or sense of this rambling nonsense…

  94. #95 Hap
    October 3, 2007

    When some people write books, they write them with the hope that another human being will learn something useful and new from them, and maybe think about something differently. When creationists write books, they seem to write them as a hammer to crush their opponents – but being that they are not very good writers or good at logic, or science, it’s more like making a Nerf hammer. It might work for their believers in arguments until the antagonists of their believers ask for actual facts rather than the academic landmarks of the morally corrupt, at which point some might realize that your don’t bring toys to a hammer party unless you intend not to walk away afterwards.

    Either the authors are implacably stupid or they don’t believe in the God they claim to adore while wishing ill upon those who do – I guess the “false witness” part is outdated, right, guys?

  95. #96 Marcus Ranum
    October 3, 2007

    “Science might have improved our lives in countless ways and led us to a deeper understanding of the universe, but oh hoh! Science can’t explain …”

    (cue John Cleese) “OK, aside from Roads, antibiotics, telecommunications, vaccines, transportation, hygeine, and internet porn, what has science done for us!? NOTHING!

  96. #97 Marcus Ranum
    October 3, 2007

    Yet humans have a continuous sense of self that is stable over time

    There are actually some amazingly fun games you can play with your own brain and sense of self. I regularly lose my sense of self. “WTF?,” you are thinking – but it’s true.

    Try messing with your iPod while driving on the freeway. You probably won’t wreck your car. But if you mess with it enough you’ll notice that, once you stop, you’ve lost the “transitional time” in between. It’s as if your “self” was gone because you were too busy doing a high risk action (driving) and a complex task (using an iPod’s damnable user interface) I was discussing this with a friend and he was extremely puzzled – he does not have this effect unless he is driving, talking on his cell phone, and messing with his iPod. Maybe he’s got an extra mumblemumble in his brain.

    Also, where does the ‘self’ go when we blink? Oddly, my ‘self’ does not ponder the 1/10 second of blackness. It’s as it if doesn’t happen. Why? Does my brain just make the 1/10 second not count? Or do ‘I’ disappear because it’d be inconvenient for my brain to render a fake landscape coming at me at 80mph? If you’re driving, can your brain fake you out with persistence of vision for 1/10 second?

    I do not know these things. I simply raise them because they are interesting and I wish someone did. But more importantly, they are experiential things that can be quantified and measured (Like Feynman’s explorations of counting while running on stairs, and so forth) – are scientists studying these things? When I was an undergrad (BA, psychology, Johns Hopkins, 1985) nobody in the psych department was talking about this kind of stuff. It was all either neuroanatomy or freudian/jungian/maslow-woo-woo. In fact the most fascinating thing I think I learned in my education is that science seems to want to preserve a blind spot regarding actually experimentally analyzing human behavior. Why?

  97. #98 Ken Cope
    October 3, 2007

    Marcus, to amplify your point about blinks, here’s something you can do with a friend and a mirror, demonstrating saccades, or the motions of the eyes when focusing.

    Have a friend watch your eyes while you face yourself in a mirror, closely. Alternate focusing your gaze on your left eye, then your right eye. Even though your friend will be able to observe the pronounced movement of your eyeballs’ rotations, you will be unable to perceive any motion at all during those saccades, nor will you sense any interruption in your vision during them.

  98. #99 another
    October 3, 2007

    In #94, Marcus wrote:

    Try messing with your iPod while driving on the freeway. You probably won’t wreck your car.

    So Marcus, you’re usually driving, uh, where exactly?

  99. #100 dwarf zebu
    October 3, 2007

    You get the idea. The format of the book is to throw out some briefly stated “fact” about the awesome power of the brain which the authors purport is unexplainable by natural processes, followed by hammering the reader with the weight of multiple authorities in quote after quote, and it doesn’t matter whether said authority actually supports the issue in contention…toss ’em out there!

    This is what they do! Many of these people seem to operate on pure projection; what convinces them will convince everyone else, too. The argument from authority is simply NOT a logical fallacy in their world. And even if they aren’t operating on pure projection (aka lying for Jesus,) they know that the choir they’re preaching to is completely convinced and supremely satisfied with any and all arguments from authority. It’s built into the religion; authority is a be-all and end-all.

    My aunt is one of these. Even though she is an intelligent, college-educated, genuinely nice and very funny person, she is absolutely convinced by any argument from any person she perceives as a legitimate authority. She is very religious and very right-wing and cannot understand why I remain unpersuaded by the right-wing, pro-war, brown-people-are-ruining-this-country opinion tirades that she periodically forwards to my inbox. I got nowhere pointing out the logical fallacy (and even providing sources!) so now I just make mildly offensive jokes about those emails, which have now slowed to a trickle.

  100. #101 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    Yes, that’s the “hard problem.” Which, as somebody pointed out above, is apparently so hard to some of its adherents, that answering it is not allowed. After all, it’s much too hard! I’m not convinced.
    That “I” is your behavior and your emotional responses (and your perceptions, memories, etc.).

    Yes, meow’s question poses a false dichotomy. The program is “just” running its course, but it’s a quite complex course and part of that course involves building a model of the world that includes a sub-model of itself as an active agent as well as sub-models of other organisms as agents — this is necessary in order to plan future actions via simulation, testing scenarios mentally without actually carrying them out. The “I” is part of the product of the running of the program — it isn’t something above and beyond that; every element of the content of consciousness can be traced to specific brain activity. Asking why there’s an “I” is a bit like asking why, if Windows is just a program running in a computer, there are “also” all these pictures, text, scrollbars, menus, borders, and all sorts of other stuff showing up on the screen.

    Imagine one organism running a program approaching another organism running a program, the latter wearing a white coat and a stethescope. The latter emits some noises. The survival of the former organism may hinge on whether it can properly interpret the noises as meaning “where does it hurt?” and providing a response that guides the behavior of the latter organism. This may provide some insight into why the programs embedded in social organisms with language such as humans produce the sort of self-model (our “selves”) that they do. Of course one can imagine other designs that achieve the same or better effect, but that’s always the case with evolved mechanisms.

  101. #102 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    In fact the most fascinating thing I think I learned in my education is that science seems to want to preserve a blind spot regarding actually experimentally analyzing human behavior. Why?

    This seems to have begun after the infamous Milgram experiment – which incidentally did no lasting emotional damage to any of its participants – which studied how people would obey authority.

    There seems to be an unspoken understanding that experiments studying social control and what influences or convinces people could be used to make them somewhat more resistant to those techniques, but they could more easily be used to refine and perfect those techniques.

    Therefore, things like IRBs exist to prevent ‘dangerous’ psychological research from being done.

  102. #103 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    The argument from authority is simply NOT a logical fallacy in their world.

    Argument from authority isn’t a logical fallacy in any world — it’s an informal fallacy, and in many cases it’s quite rational to conclude P from that fact that X claims P, although of course it doesn’t necessarily follow, and one must weigh X’s veracity and relevant knowledge. But the fact is that a large fraction of what we believe is based on hearsay (for instance, almost everything I believe about my parents’ childhoods, how they met, and the events of their marriage before I was born, I believe based on what they told me).

  103. #104 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    Argument from authority isn’t a logical fallacy in any world

    Well, just conditionally treating what an authority says as worthy of creating a potential model isn’t the argument from authority fallacy.

    That fallacy is saying that an authority said X, so no further analysis of X is necessary, and no additional evidence can refute X.

  104. #105 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    she is absolutely convinced by any argument from any person she perceives as a legitimate authority

    But she only recognizes someone as a “legitimate authority” if the argument is one consonant with her already-formed opinion. This is simply selection bias, unhampered by intellectual honesty. Your grandma may be “funny”, but she’s dishonest. And is it really “nice” to be mean-spirited, racist, and wanting huge numbers of people to die?

  105. #106 truth machine
    October 3, 2007

    It’s fruitless and unpleasant to engage in a debate with Caledonian, but for others I recommend http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

  106. #107 Chris Noble
    October 3, 2007

    Indeed, we can receive messages in a variety of ways: EM radiation (380 – 770 nm), pressure waves (20Hz up to 20 kHz), a variety of chemical signals, a whole bunch of contact sensors on our surface, a horde of status reports from within our bodies, and possibly a few other signals such as weak magnetic fields. And then there’s our interpretive abilities….

    The human brain is also every good at picking up signals at 3 GHz although I would not advise any children to try this experiment with their parents microwave oven.

  107. #108 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    It’s fruitless and unpleasant to engage in a debate with Caledonian

    It wouldn’t be, if you were capable of presenting an argument that could hold its own. If you keep putting out garbage, of course it’s going to be unpleasant for you!

    The fallacy isn’t in taking what an authority has to say seriously, it’s in accepting what an authority has to say without thinking about it. You’re conflating a perfectly reasonable action with a gross violation of reason, and then using the term for that violation to argue that it’s actually perfectly reasonable.

  108. #109 Ian Wardell
    October 3, 2007

    Sounds like a train wreck of a book. Which reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes, from Frank Zindler:

    To believe that consciousness can survive the wreck of the brain is like believing that 70 mph can survive the wreck of the car.


    I’ll bet it didn’t make it into the book.

    Well that statement just presupposes the correctness of the materialist metaphysic. What the book would need to address are the evidence and arguments for materialism. Since I haven’t read it I have no idea whether the book in fact does this. However from reading this blog entry in addition to some of the reviews on Amazon, it appears to have incensed those who are convinced that materialism correctly depicts reality.

    This outpouring of emotion I feel is unlikely to be wholly due to the defects of the arguments contained in the book. Possibly the authors may have marshaled powerful evidence and arguments which are sufficiently challenging to seriously upset stalwart materialists.

    Anyway I am now sufficiently intrigued to go and purchase this book.

  109. #110 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    Ian, #106

    However from reading this blog entry in addition to some of the reviews on Amazon, […] I am now sufficiently intrigued to go and purchase this book.

    After reading this review, you want to spend money on it?

    Troll.

  110. #111 Ian Wardell
    October 3, 2007

    PZ wrote: “[T]hey…credulously state that psychic powers like telepathy and telekinesis are real….[W]ho thinks mystical brain states would be simple? Raise your hands….”

    Jud wrote:
    Better yet, anyone who thinks telekinesis is real, raise my hand.

    Or better yet still, anyone who thinks psychokinesis *isn’t* real, raise your hand.

    A straightforward refutation of the skeptic’s assertion that psychokinesis doesn’t exist.

  111. #112 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    Ian,

    Moving one’s own body is not psychokinesis (and the quote said telekinesis).
    Your misunderstanding appears wilful and disingenuous.

  112. #113 Ian Wardell
    October 3, 2007


    After reading this review, you want to spend money on it?


    Troll.


    Posted by: John Morales

    If you look on amazon.com you’ll note that there are some negative reviews of this book, and some positive reviews. The negative reviews tend to be given by skeptics/materialists, the positive reviews tend to be given by those who feel that various paranormal phenomena and a “life after death” might well be real. Since I am most definitely in the latter group (I think skepticism/materialism is most definitely false), then it seems a fair probability I might get something useful out of reading it.

    So yes, I am just about to go to amazon and order the book.

  113. #114 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    Morales, are you trying to reason with the woo?

  114. #115 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    Caledonian, even a suspected troll should be given a chance.

    I’m beginning to think Ian is genuine. So, either way, yes, it’s pointless.

    Enjoy the book, Ian.

  115. #116 Ichthyic
    October 3, 2007

    (I think skepticism/materialism is most definitely false)

    I can’t parse this statement.

    anybody?

  116. #117 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    Caledonian, even a suspected troll should be given a chance.

    Was this chance given before or after you named him a troll in your first response?

  117. #118 Ken Cope
    October 3, 2007

    I’m skeptical of skeptics of skepticism, but only because, as another strange loop, I’m fond of the infinite regress.

  118. #119 John Morales
    October 3, 2007

    Ian’s not a troll, he’s a woo. Sorry.

    The chance was given after, obviously – the challenge came first. It was very medieval of me.

    Consider this an apology of sorts.

  119. #120 Ian Wardell
    October 3, 2007


    Moving one’s own body is not psychokinesis (and the quote said telekinesis).


    Your misunderstanding appears wilful and disingenuous.


    Posted by: John Morales

    Both words have precisely the same meaning, but nowadays psychokinesis is the word generally used.

    Psychokinesis simply refers to the ability of consciousness to produce effects in the physical world. Unless you subscribe to epiphenomenalism (which is incoherent)then our consciousness does indeed produce effects in the physical world — namely in the movement of our own bodies. I think it’s essentially the same phenomenon as revealed in the research in the form of RNG experiments suggesting the existence of micropsychokinesis.

  120. #121 Caledonian
    October 3, 2007

    Consider this an apology of sorts.

    Noted, logged, and accepted.

    In fairness, it’s often hard to distinguish trolls from woos. The trick is identifying the sincerity.

  121. #122 Ian Wardell
    October 3, 2007


    Consciousness is an irreducible quality.


    Sastra
    No it’s not. That’s what studies in neuroscience are finding out, that’s what’s being discovered by looking at cases where people have bits of their brains sick or missing or damaged or fiddled with by electrodes. What feels like an irreducible, homogenous, continuous, holistic experience of self — “the ghost in the machine” — is actually cobbled together from parts, and divisible in interesting ways.

    Ian
    You are conflating consciousness with the self. Consciousness is most definitely an irreducible quality.

    The self however might well be an illusion. Indeed if one subscribes to a materialist based metaphysic one is compelled to believe that the self is an illusion. (click on my name and read my blog, there’s only one essay there).

  122. #123 bacopa
    October 4, 2007

    Meow stated:

    But why am “I” here experiencing it? Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    Great question! I think the experience of qualia is physically caused, but not in itself causally signifigant. when push comes to shove. Nevertheless, we are able to form quite accurate explainations of behavior in terms of beliefs, desires, and subjective experience.

  123. #124 snaxalotl
    October 4, 2007

    Why isn’t this program just running its course, churning through its routines, executing the behavior, preserving the organism. Why am “I” in here watching the whole thing play out?

    some theorists claim (insist) that the useful ability that evolved to watch (and interpret) other people/primates has let to an innate tendency to watch and interpret yourself (I wouldn’t say it’s perfectly argued, but Bogdan’s Minding Minds is a good read).

    Also, where does the ‘self’ go when we blink?

    the way Dennet puts it in Consciousness Explained (again, not perfect but a very worthwhile read … amazing to see how many “baffling” phenomena can be explained with straightforward well-defined concepts) is that our “experience” we are so sure that we have at any moment is really the story we construct after the event … you can never really ponder an experience without in fact pondering the memory of it, which is designed to provide useful function, not a literal history. We are merely innately inclined to believe our memory of a fleeting event is exactly what happened.

  124. #125 Ichthyic
    October 4, 2007

    I’m skeptical of skeptics of skepticism, but only because, as another strange loop, I’m fond of the infinite regress.

    thanks, Ken, that did the trick.

  125. #126 Stephen Wells
    October 4, 2007

    @Ian- since when did “is most definitely” constitute a proof?

    Re. the “hard problem” of consciousness- most statements of it that I’ve met seem to boil down to “why is there a little man in my head?” To which the best answer seems to be “there isn’t.”

  126. #127 SEF
    October 4, 2007

    Consciousness is most definitely an irreducible quality.

    Untrue. Most people go through much of life in a barely conscious state – doing things on automatic (eg the car driving itself to a destination). Only sometimes do they really wake up to full consciousness – perceiving, thinking and acting in the moment in a sentient way. Barely conscious states also include being on strong painkillers or other drugs, having an allergic reaction and being extremely ill. People slip in and out of consciousness and possess it to varying degrees anyway.

  127. #128 MartinM
    October 4, 2007

    Well that statement just presupposes the correctness of the materialist metaphysic.

    It’s been a few years now, and yet I still knew exactly who was posting from the very first sentence.

    How’s life, Ian?

  128. #129 keiths
    October 4, 2007

    PZ,

    I think you hurt Denyse’s feelings.

  129. #130 Blake Stacey
    October 4, 2007

    Quoth O’Leary:

    As he is the only person I have heard of who found The Spiritual Brain hard to read – it is widely praised for its clarity and usefulness, after all, by people coming from a variety of viewpoints – maybe he suffers from “alexia sine agraphia” (the rare “can write but can’t read” syndrome). Good to know there’s hope.

    That noise you just heard was a classic spit take, rather well-executed on my part if you don’t mind my saying so myself.

    That “variety of viewpoints” turns out — if you follow the link in the original — to run the gamut from A to B, or from Egnor to Behe if you want to be more precise.

    More likely, he is playing to a crowd of supporters. In that case, speaking of hope, I hope that monkey with the tin cup is still in good health.

    Mmmm. Any response to the, oh, you know, demonstration that you can’t do arithmetic? Or your severe case of the quote-mining bug?

    Didn’t think so.

  130. #131 Ian Wardell
    October 4, 2007

    Untrue. Most people go through much of life in a barely conscious state – doing things on automatic (eg the car driving itself to a destination). Only sometimes do they really wake up to full consciousness – perceiving, thinking and acting in the moment in a sentient way.

    This has no implications for the question of whether consciousness is reducible or not. That’s normally brought up over the issue of free will.

    BTW people, I’ve ordered that book and it should be arriving in a few days. Once I’ve read it I’ll be in a position to make some comments.

    Hello Martin, yes I’m doing fine. But if I hadn’t have used the words “materialist metaphysic” you wouldn’t have known who I was.

  131. #132 Ken Cope
    October 4, 2007

    To believe that consciousness can survive the wreck of the brain is like believing that 70 mph can survive the wreck of the car.

    Well that statement just presupposes the correctness of the materialist metaphysic.

    70 mph, being an irreducible quality, must be conserved by the Intelligent Driver. Since 70 mph is what makes the car speed, once a car is wrecked, it’s easy to demonstrate where the 70 mph goes. 70 mph must possess any vehicles passing the scene of the accident (or if you will, transition zone). Paradoxically, this transfer of speed has a misinterpreted effect, momentarily slowing the flow of traffic through the transition zone, in what is referred to by those with flawed skeptic/materialist presuppositions as gawkers’ block. This ignores the effect of 70 mph on these cars as they pass the event: their speed suddenly increases, having absorbed the 70 mph liberated in the wreck of the car. Cars rapidly accelerate from a previous crawl, an effect that continues until the vehicle previously motivated by 70 mph is removed from the road, or way.

    As an irreducible quality, 70 mph survives the wreck of a car, just as this blog is witness to so many brains surviving wrecks of consciousness.

  132. #133 SEF
    October 4, 2007

    This has no implications for the question of whether consciousness is reducible or not.

    Untrue again. It refutes your claim utterly by giving concrete examples of reduced consciousness! The existence of the word “semi-conscious” does quite a good job of that all on its own of course. However, there are also all the examples of other animal species having varying degrees of consciousness in addition to the variability of consciousness levels across all humans and within individual human specimens over time.

    That’s normally brought up over the issue of free will.

    Irrelevant. It refutes your claim, regardless of whatever other context it may frequent.

  133. #134 Caledonian
    October 4, 2007

    Martin, is this the infamous “Interesting Ian” who posts (or used to post) at the JREF forums?

  134. #135 Ian Wardell
    October 4, 2007

    Seth
    Untrue again. It refutes your claim utterly by giving concrete examples of reduced consciousness!

    ……………………………………..

    I’m afraid we’re talking at cross purposes here. I’m talking about a philosophical doctrine known as reductionism. The basic idea of reductionism is very simple. It is the belief that all aspects of complex phenomena can be understood by reducing them to their constituent parts. It is the motions of these parts and how they interact together which explain the phenomenon concerned. For example, consider a clockwork clock. By looking at the components of that clock – namely the cogs, the springs, and the wheels – and how they all interrelate together, we can actually understand how the minute and hour clock hands move.

    Likewise if reductionism is a correct depiction of reality then at least in principle we can derive the existence of consciousness from the internal workings of the brain. To be more explicit, it’s not simply noting the neural correlates of various conscious experiences. It’s examining the internal processes within the brain and understanding that these internal processes *must* give rise to consciousness in an akin way that looking at the internal components of a clock must result in the hands moving.

    When I state that consciousness is irreducible I mean it cannot be so reduced. Not that our conscious awareness varies during our waking hours!

    Caledonian, yes I am “Interesting Ian” who used to post on the jref board. I no longer do so as I was banned from there for my anti-materialist/skeptic stance.

  135. #136 SEF
    October 4, 2007

    It’s examining the internal processes within the brain and understanding that these internal processes *must* give rise to consciousness in an akin way that looking at the internal components of a clock must result in the hands moving.

    You’re just arguing from personal ignorance then – and also not comprehending the nature of emergent properties. In theory (NB not a specific scientific theory!), the events which play out in a game of Life should be predictable from the very simple rules of it. In practice, they aren’t predictable in any other way than letting it play out. Other instances are merely a matter of science not having explained a thing yet.

    You are operating under the delusion that your particular objection-of-the-gaps is a valid one, just as much as god-botherers generally are with their god-of-the-gaps notions.

  136. #137 Owlmirror
    October 4, 2007

    When I state that consciousness is irreducible I mean it cannot be so reduced.

    I find immaterial arguments hard to follow. Why do you assume that consciousness is irreducible?

  137. #138 Ken Cope
    October 5, 2007

    If consciousness is linear, rather than parallel, how is it that there are those among us who can both chew gum and walk at the same time, never fearing the prospect of tripping, nor biting our tongues? How can consciousness be irreducible with all those voices in your head? Which irreducible consciousness gets the outside voice? If there’s only one little person in your head, what do you have to do to get the remote control back from somebody so small, and what if somebody in that guy’s head runs afoul of the halting problem while playing with the autocerebrescope? If consciousness is made of unexplainium, who is hoarding its critical component of unobtainium?

  138. #139 Julio Siqueira
    October 5, 2007


    Hello Myers (what a suggestive family name, huh?…)

    Ok, we all know that materialism is the “Paradigm
    Lost.” It is wrong, pure and simple. I recently (last week)presented this view at the email list of Victor Stenger (Avoid-L – I am one of the members of that crazy spot now 🙂 ) and no convincing counterargument was to be seen.

    But the question is, this book seems to base its argument in the idea that what these nuns (the flying one included, I guess…) experience cannot be created by their own brains because it has neurological patterns not compatible with it, right? The neurological patterns are compatible with what the brain displays when perceiving something of the real outside world. So my question is: do you know if this is true, that is, that visions created by the brain do not have this spread out pattern that they claim to have found with these nuns while in trance? Dreams come to my mind. What kind of neurological pattern ordinary dreams trigger in the brain?

    You seem to be right in most of what you said. And I appreciated the humour and style :-). And please, stay away from my site (link at the end). I would terribly regret if you ever stopped being a materialist because of me.

    Best Wishes,
    Julio Siqueira
    http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/criticizingskepticism.htm
    _________________

  139. #140 onclepsycho
    October 5, 2007

    Mario Beauregard is, almost on its own, the neuroscience equivalent of the Discovery Institute. The stupid, awful, useless fMRI “study” with Carmelite nuns was supported by the Templeton Foundation, enough said. And get ready, here’s what I found on Mario Beauregard’s website: he’s co-editing a book called “The End of Materialism”, with Jeffrey Schwartz and… William Dembski. (see: http://www.mapageweb.umontreal.ca/beauregm/publications.htm).
    Check also this psychotic quantum-babble of his: http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/PTRS.pdf

  140. #141 John Morales
    October 5, 2007

    Julio Siqueira, I should have stayed away from your site.

    I urge others to spare their neurons the pain.

  141. #142 Keith Douglas
    October 6, 2007

    SMC: Some of these neodualists seem to have vanishingly small brains (at least cogntively speaking) when it comes to certain matters, yes.

    snaxalotl: That sounds like what I was told JJC Smart’s attitude to it was. I tend to agree – and Dennett also uses the same sort of approach in Consciousness Explained. The more you attempt to pin down the “qualophiles”, the more incoherent they sound.

    The Neurocritic: Don’t forget that some of the stuff from nuns in the middle ages sounds suspiciously like orgasmic dream states …

    truth machine: Indeed – the “Ship of Theseus” problem is formulated by Hobbes, and he was as big a materialist as one could be in polite company in the 17th century …

    Stephen Wells: Paul Churchland says the same thing – basically amounts to “duh, of course your point of you is yours – it is a process in your body, after all”.

    Marcus Ranum: There were Freudians in a psychology department at a good university like JH in the 80s?? Wow.

    onclepsycho: Unfortunately he has intelllectual ancestors in Eccles and Penfield, both pioneering neuroscientists who were dualists. (The intellectual gossip I’ve heard about Penfield suggests strong religious background, but I don’t know how true that is.)

  142. #143 Julio Siqueira
    October 6, 2007


    Oh My, I adressed a question to Myers and got a reply from Bolores, that is, Morales, instead… 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Now he is demanding from me copyrights because I used a photo of his on my webpage. Come on Morales! We skeptics/rationalists have no time to waste with this. And it may not truly hurt *us* to visit my site, precisely because we have neurons, plural, and not singular, like Bolores 😉

    Best
    Julio Siqueira
    http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/criticizingskepticism.htm
    ____________________

  143. #144 John Morales
    October 6, 2007

    #140: !

  144. #145 James McGrath
    October 11, 2007

    I forced myself to read the first four chapters or so of the book. I teach a course on religion and science, am deeply interested in the subject, and do not want to allow someone to claim that I do not even listen to what those whose views I disagree with have to say. But the truth is that the authors acknowledge their own ideological bias in the preface, and then spend the rest of the book accusing others of having one. They leave no room for middle ground. For instance, they ignore concepts such as emergent properties, and so they end up arguing the equivalent of saying “Hydrogen and oxygen cannot explain wetness, so there must be an immaterial soul of wetness inserted supernaturally into water molecules”.

    I’ve written my own review in which I explore some of these criticisms in some detail. It is posted on my blog at http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2007/10/spiritual-brain.html

    My review is nowhere near as colorful as this one, in spite of my including a video clip of The Bloodhound Gang! 🙂

  145. #146 greensmile
    October 11, 2007

    yer right PZ, that is a let-down. there is no soul. What there is is a projection of ego and it is fueled by a lot of suppressed angst at the premonitions we have of our mortality.

    It is not that our minds don’t lend themselves to thoughts and feelings more easily categorized as “spiritual” than as anything else. [and that is an area I am amateurishly researching of late] I had hopes based on that title.

  146. #147 Michael
    May 17, 2008

    I’m a Christian, and I’m even thoroughly disgusted by how invalid and sloppy this book is. Please don’t think that all Christians are mindless cave-dwelling, sun fearing primitives because of this person (and many, many other quacks who seem to own pens). Well, okay, a lot of Christians are (don’t get me started on Catholics) but at least there is one right here who believes in some higher being named “God” AND evolution AND in a biologically functioning brain.

  147. #148 Steve Dutch
    May 17, 2008

    “The average neuron, consisting of about 100,000 molecules, is about 80 percent water. The brain is home to about 100 billion such cells and thus about 10^15 molecules. Each neuron gets 10,000 or so connections from other cells in the brain.”

    Lots of sources list the composition of the human body. One source lists a 70 kg person as containing 2700 moles of O, 1300 C, 7000 H, 130 N and 25 each P and Ca, giving about 6.7 x 10^27 atoms. Using the generally cited figure of 200 trillion (2 x 10^14) cells in the human body, that’s about 3.4 x 10^13 atoms in a typical cell. How you tally the molecules I haven’t a clue, since there are dissolved ions, most are water (3 atoms) and some are DNA (billions). A 1-kg brain would have about 10^26 atoms. Guesstimating an average of 10-100 atoms per molecule (lots of water and ions but some far bigger molecules) we’d have 10^24-10^25 molecules in a brain or (using 100 billion neurons per brain) about 10^13-10^14 molecules. Doing all that with only 100,000 molecules would really be Intelligent Design!

    I’ve used this information as the basis for some student exercises. One interesting consequence is that if you use typical ionic radii and calculate the volume of all the atoms, the human body is about 2/3 interatomic space. Think about it. It’s mostly fluid – there has to be a lot of void space. So next time someone says you’re not all there, they’re right.

  148. #149 Helena
    May 17, 2008

    Oh PZ! using ‘critical’ to mean ‘unfavorable’! Isn’t that like saying evolution is just a theory?

    But that little mis-step aside, I’ve seen general allusions like the one here to those brian-scans of Carmelites in ecstasy, but never seen a refernce to the actual publication nor any follow-up research. Can anyone left reading the post at this late date point me in the right direction (I would prefer the actual peer-reviewd jounral citation rather than some place on the web unless a PDF has been put up).

    Thanks.

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