Posts Tagged ‘biocentrism’

Why an Atom is More Like a Person Than a Doll Is

December 8, 2013 4 comments

Another thing that really puzzles me is the way that you agree with me that nothing is inanimate, and yet you repeatedly use arguments that are based on the premise that some things are inanimate. Is this just an *apparent* contradiction because we use the term ‘inanimate’ in fundamentally different ways, or is it a contradiction in your thinking? Could you perhaps explain this?

It makes sense that it would seem contradictory, as this issue is really a more advanced concept that goes beyond accepting the initial premises which we agree on. Lets say that we want to create a whole other Everything from scratch. In my view, as long as we keep things relatively simple, as in no complex organic life, our views are pretty much interchangeable. It doesn’t matter whether information processes are irreducibly animate as you say, or whether information processes are actually the self-diffracted gaps in the primordial identity pansensitivity, as I suggest. The effect is indistinguishable and we have cool stuff going on, with physics, aesthetics, entropy all naturally falling out as parameters.

The question of primordial identity begins to seem more important as multicellular life begins and we have to choose to bet on whether the body of any dividing cell is type identical to the experience associated with the organism as a whole, or whether there are multiple layers of experience going on. If there are multiple layers of awareness going on, does one of the layers act as an umbrella for the others, and if so, is it a summary/identity layer as the color white would be to the visible spectrum of colors, or is it an emergent layer which is produced by transfers of quantitative results, so that the cellular experiences are a priori ‘real’ and the macrophenomenal experiences are generated as a kind of projection which is less than primitively real.

What I do with MSR is to assume that the primary relation is perceptual relativity. This means that spacetime is scaled to the significance of experiences rather than fixed to a scalar index. By this I mean that the cell level microphenomenal experience is simultaneous with the organism level macrophenomenal experience, but that their simultaneity is asymmetric, as the macro appears smeared across time from the micro perspective. When we use microscopic scales to poke around in the body and brain, we are essentially driving a wedge between the macro and micro, but without recognizing that microphysical effects refer only to microphenomenal affects and not macrophenomenal affects.

At the level of the cell or molecule, the organism as a whole, if it is a complex organism, does not exist. Literally. There is no {your name here} to your DNA. Its a completely different level of description in which the public side relates mechanically (molecules must functionally produce cells and be produced by cells), and the private side relates *metaphorically*. It’s a complete divergence which does not appear prominently in pre-biotic phenomena. Each organism is evolving separately on the inside than it is on the outside, and that dimorphism is getting exponentially more pronounced as it evolves. The public body side appears to be physically recapitulating itself as a growing, multiplying, dividing structure in space, while the private experiential side has no appearance and is felt as the invariant nexus of a story about the world which appears to be repeating in nested cycles and progressing in a linear narrative.

The two stories are different. The microphenomenal story appears to relate to physical events, which we can observe in everything from a viral infection to changes in temperature or pressure in the environment. The macrophenomenal story, at least for us, is consumed by history and teleology. We respond to the environment based on our accumulated experience and intention. This so-called mind-body split is actually worse than that. Coming from a time where we had no understanding of microphysics, the simplistic mind-body mapping flattens human awareness into a single horizontal dualism. What I suggest is that dualism is actually an orthogonal monism, but that each horizontal dualism is part of a vertical stack. The cell that is seen by the organism in the organisms world is only a snapshot that it can see during one if its moments. To look at one of your blood cells under a microscope is for the cell to see itself from two different evolutionary times, with the newer, larger experience looking at a moment of the older, smaller experience and seeing it from the outside, as an object or machine. This is how the aesthetics of distance works for us – when we outgrow an experience, the here and now associated with us is recontextualized aesthetically as a there and then which is associated with “it”.

I don’t know if that makes it seem even more confusing, but what I am trying to get at is that the more the universe recapitulates itself as increasingly nested experiences, the more important it is that we see that which is nesting itself as primary and the overall nest as ‘inanimate’. Pragmatically, we can’t walk around the house worried about how the carpet fibers feel, or whether we have underestimated the feelings of the avatar we have created in a computer game. If it is the nesting instead which is primary rather than what is being nested, then we have no justification at all for our intuitions about life and death or organic vs artificial processes and we can only turn to a kind of gradient of probable intelligence based on complexity.

There are a lot of problems with that, not the least of which is that we are required to take the word of any sufficiently sophisticated machine over our own understanding. We become unable to justify any significant difference between an interactive cartoon character that acts like a person, and a fellow human being. A successful stock market trading program would be entitled to staff companies entirely with copies of itself and reduce the entire human population to an unemployed resource liability. I’m just throwing out a few wild examples, but there are many less extreme but undesirable consequences to personifying information processes, as we are starting to see with the rise of corporate personhood in the US. A corporation is an information process, as is a city, but we have to decide whether the employees and citizens ultimately serve the motives of the process or whether the processes are to extend from their motives. If process is primary, then we are mere spectators to the process of our own irrelevance. If sense and motive are primary, then the process is ours to do with it as we wish. Nothing short of the future of the universe hangs in the balance. It is more convenient to work with measurable processes and theories than messy emotions and sensations, yet the universe has found a way to do that, and I think so should we.

If we think of the world that we see through our eyes as an experience in the moment rather than the whole truth of existence, it is no longer a given that configurations and complexity are creators of life. The cellular machinery only relates to extra-cellular machinery on far micro and far macro levels of description. The most dynamic range is the fertile middle. Humans have, as far as we know, the broadest range between the mechanistic ‘out there’ and animistic ‘in here’. This is what makes us human. Any theory which does not clearly understand why that is important is not a complete theory, and is therefore ultimately a theory of the destruction of humanity. I’m not a huge fan of humanity myself, so I say this not as some Cassandra-esque wolf crying, but as a consequence of what seems to be the case when I add up everything to get a big picture. Information cannot feel. These words are not generic patterns produced by inevitable process alone. They are my words, and I am instantiating them directly on my own irreducibly macrophenomenal level.

Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza’s Notion of a Conscious Universe.

May 6, 2013 4 comments

Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza’s Notion of a Conscious Universe.

Responding to this comment by VW
1. I hope we all agree that our information about facts is incomplete, and will always remain so, at least in the foreseeable future.2. The only reality that makes sense to me is what Stephen Hawking calls ‘model-dependent reality’ (MDR).3. Other uses of the word ‘reality’ (other than MDR) imply ‘absolute reality’. If you disagree with this statement, please try defining ‘absolute reality’ in a logical way, using words which mean the same thing to everybody. My belief is that you will not be able to do that, and that means that MDR is all you have for discussion purposes.4. Naturally, there can be many models of reality. So which of the MDRs is the right one, and who will decide that? In view of (1) above, this is a hopeless situation, and that is why I avoid getting into philosophical discussions.

5. At any time in human history, there are more humans favouring a particular MDR over other MDRs. Let us call it the majority MDR (MMDR).

6. An MMDR may well prove to be wrong when we humans acquire more information; from then we have a new MMDR, till even that gets demolished.

7. I believe that materialism is a better MDR than its opposite (called idealism, subjectivism, or whatever). For more on this, please read my article at Here is an excerpt from that article:

‘ There are several umbrella words like ‘consciousness’, ‘reality’, etc., which have never been defined rigorously and unambiguously. H&M argue that we can only have ‘model-dependent reality’, and that any other notion of reality is meaningless.

Does an object exist when we are not viewing it? Suppose there are two opposite models or theories for answering this question (and indeed there are!). Which model of ‘reality’ is better? Naturally the one which is simpler and more successful in terms of its predicted consequences. If a model makes my head spin and entangles me in a web of crazy complications and contradictory conclusions, I would rather stay away from it. This is where materialism wins hands down. The materialistic model is that the object exists even when nobody is observing it. This model is far more successful in explaining ‘reality’ than the opposite model. And we can do no better than build models of whatever there is understand and explain.

In fact, we adopt this approach in science all the time. There is no point in going into the question of what is absolute and unique ‘reality’. There can only be a model-dependent reality. We can only build models and theories, and we accept those which are most successful in explaining what we humans observe collectively. I said ‘most successful’. Quantum mechanics is an example of what that means. In spite of being so crazily counter-intuitive, it is the most successful and the most repeatedly tested theory ever propounded. I challenge the creationists and their ilk to come with an alternative and more successful model of ‘reality’ than that provided by quantum mechanics. (I mention quantum mechanics here because the origin of the universe, like every other natural phenomenon, was/is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. The origin of the universe was a quantum event.)

A model is a good model if: it is elegant; it contains few arbitrary or adjustable parameters; it agrees with and explains all the existing observations; and it makes detailed and falsifiable predictions.’

>”Other uses of the word ‘reality’ (other than MDR) imply ‘absolute reality’. If you disagree with this statement, please try defining ‘absolute reality’ in a logical way,”

Absolute reality is the capacity for perceptual participation, aka, sensory-motor presentation, aka qua(lia-nta). That is the bare-metal prerequisite for all forms of order or matter, subject or object. Not only metaphysics but meta-ontology. The cosmos is not something which is, the cosmos actually invents “is” by “seeming not to merely seem”.

Please try defining ‘model’ in a way that does not assume some form of sensory presentation and participation. What is a model except a sensory experience which seems to refer our minds to another?

While I agree that no participant within a given experience has an absolute perspective of that experience, I disagree that the MDR is a solipsistic ‘model’ which is generated locally. The fact that we recognize the relativism of perceptual inertial frames (PIF = my term for MDR) is itself a clue that the deeper reality is this very capacity for relativism of perspective. Although the relativism itself may be the only final commonality among all perspectives, that commonality is not a tabula rasa. We can say things about this ‘common sense’ – things which have to do with contrasts and inverted symmetry, with proximity and intensity, relationship, identity, and division. These principles are beneath all forms and functions, all sensations and ideas, substances and patterns, and through them, we can infer more elusive fundamentals. Pattern recognition which is beyond pattern. Gestalt habits which are beyond mereology or cardinality…higher octaves of simplicity. Trans-rational, non-quantitative properties.

All mechanisms and all physics rely on a root expectation of sanity and continuity – of causality and memory, position, recursive enumeration, input/output, etc. If you are going to get rid of absolute reality, then you have to explain the emergence of the first MDR – what is modeling? Why does the universe model itself rather than simply ‘be’ what it is?

My solution is to accept that this assumed ‘modeling’ is physics itself, and that physics is experienced-embodied relativity. In the absolute sense, matter a special case of a more general (non-human) perception or sense. Not a continuum or a ZPE vacuum flux, but ordinary readiness to experience private sensory affects and produce (intentionally or not) public facing motor effects. What the universe uses to model is not a mathematical abstraction floating in a vacuum, but a concrete participatory phenomena, which we know as human beings to be sensory-motor participation. Not everything is alive biologically, but everything that seems to us to exist naturally as matter probably has a panexperiential interaction associated with it on some level of description. It’s about turning the field-force model inside out, turning away from the de-personalized objectivity of the last few centuries and toward a realization of personal involvement in genuine presentations (customized and filtered though they may be) rather than assembled representations.

The MMDR should not embrace materialism or idealism by default because one seems simpler than the other. We should accept only a solution which honors the full spectrum of possible experiences in the cosmos, from the most empirically public to the most esoterically private. This does not mean weighting the ravings of one lunatic the same as a law of gravity, but rather acknowledging that if there is a lunatic, then the universe is in some sense potentially crazy also, and within that crazy is something even more interesting and universal than gravity…an agenda for aesthetic proliferation… a Multisense Realism.

Illusion is a meaningless term in science as far as I can see. Illusion is about an experience failing to meet expectations of consistency across perceptual frames (models)…except that we know that inconsistency is likely the only such consistency, beyond the root common sense. Whatever illusions we experience as people are not necessarily absent on other levels of inspection. Quantum illusions, classical illusions, biological illusions, etc. Every instrument relies on conditions which create their own confirmation bias, including the human mind. We should not, however, make the mistake of allowing non-human, inanimate instruments tell us what our reality is. They can’t see our consciousness in the first place, remember? Our human equipment is not as sensitive in detecting public phenomena, we cannot see more than a small range of E-M, etc, but neither is a gas spectrometer sensitive in detecting human privacy.

We see that when we adopt the frame of mechanism, idealism seems pathologically naive and if we adopt the frame of  idealism, mechanism seems pathologically cynical. This should be regarded along the lines of the double-slit test: evidence that our assumptions are not the whole story, and to seek a deeper unity than mechanistic or idealistic appearances.

Critique of Lanza’s Biocentricism Principles

August 2, 2012 Leave a comment


  1. What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness. An “external” reality, if it existed, would by definition have to exist in space. But this is meaningless, because space and time are not absolute realities but rather tools of the human and animal mind.
  2. Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be divorced from one another.
  3. The behavior of subatomic particles, indeed all particles and objects, is inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.
  4. Without consciousness, “matter” dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.
  5. The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The “universe” is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self.
  6. Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.
  7. Space, like time, is not an object or a thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around with us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life.

In my view, biocentrism is almost on the right track. Lanza is right that space and time are not absolute realities, but I think he may be wrong that they are tools of the human and animal mind. I think that individual cognitive bias, especially in assuming the quality of awareness and agency outside of the individual, is fantastically underestimated. If living organisms were not here to make geological time seem slow, I see no particular reason to assume that time and space would not also be the ‘tools’ used by the mineral kingdom, or in the astrophysical scale. Why assume that organic life is what the universe is all about? Left to their own devices inorganic minerals like zinc and manganese do this:

Speed it up to a rate of a thousand years a second and you’ve got something more like sparks or even…feelings within the Earth’s crust.

For his #2, I agree that they are different sides of the same coin, but I would not say that they cannot be divorced from the other. The multisense continuum is a syzygy where interior realism and exterior realism are identical in some sense, overlapping in some sense, orthogonal in some sense, and elaborated to separate and idiopathic extremes in another sense. We don’t have to have a doctrine where every phenomenon must translate meaningfully into the other side of the coin. Fiction and fact influence each other, but they can influence themselves independently of each other as well.

#3 I think is pulling from initial enthusiasm over the Copenhagen interpretation and applying it in the familiar new age way. I’m not saying there is no truth to that, and yes, in most general sense, all descriptions of the universe are inextricably linked to the presence of an ‘observer’, but my conjecture continues to be that we have got Quantum Mechanics completely inside out. The interpretation I suggest is that the further we get into the microcosm, the more our measurements are solipsistically reflecting the instruments being used, so that what we assume are exotic particle-waves appearing and disappearing, making two opposite choices at once, being in two places at once, etc are not objective realities at all but rather the end of our ability to detect objects in space and the beginning of subjects ability to construct experiences through time. It’s that simple. Shocking, but I think it deserves serious consideration.

4. Eh, again, this ‘probability state’ is a figment of the mathematical imagination. Probability is great for a posteriori analysis but it is literally nonsense as a concrete reality. Probabilities, potentials, emergent properties, “information”,…these are all 21st century figments of hypertrophied empiricism. No superposition of bytes ever did anything to anything by itself. What Lanza should do here is connect the ‘different sides of the same coin’ notion up to matter and see that matter and consciousness are literally different aspects of the same thing (and that thing is the very capacity to experience the symmetry of matter and consciousness…’sense’ or perception and participation.) Once you aren’t chained to living organisms being the only source of experience, and biological time being the only scale that experiences can occur through, then there is no reason to think that there has ever been a universe without consciousness – they are, in fact, the same thing.

5. I see where he is coming from and agree in the sense that the universe cannot be explained only as a bottom-up emergence from nothingness, it requires the contrary principle as well – which would be something like a continuous recovery of everythingness from diffracted or masked states (I have been calling it ‘solitropy‘ or ‘wholes through holes’…trans-rational or elliptical algebras).

6. I agree, only I don’t discriminate against non animals. Everything senses or makes sense to something, and with solitropy, it is possible that if the entire universe collapsed into a singularity (again?), it would still retain exactly the same totality of sense that it has ever had. There is only one thing, and it is an experience, and it divides itself into experiences of un-division.

7. Yes, space is a form of understanding and not primitively real, but the experience of acoustics – cymatics, vibration, the tangible aesthetics of inanimate substances should be a clue that space awareness is not limited to animals. Crystalized minerals, whirling solar systems, etc have been exploring space with matter for billions of human years (even if its just been a long summer’s day on those geological scales). What Lanza does not consider is that the universe might be a worthwhile spectacle without any animal life at all. He has the right idea about the realism of the universe being much more profoundly localized than we currently assume, and even in a round about way that life is the fundamental thing that we as living organisms should concern ourselves with, but if we really want to connect all of the dots, I think that we need to see it isn’t biology that makes the universe go round, it’s sense.

Book Discussion: Aping Mankind (part one)

July 6, 2012 2 comments


I have been reading Raymond Tallis’ Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis, and The Misrepresentation of Humanity. I have not quite finished it yet but I wanted to post this while it is still fresh.

His critique of contemporary models of consciousness so exactly aligned with my own that I am glad that I did not read the book until now because I would have thought that I had lifted my entire opinion from his. Tallis sees with the same crystal clarity how neurology and evolution fail completely to address the fact of conscious experience itself. He uses some of the same terms I do, pointing out as I often do that a “re-presentation” can only exist as a way of transferring or transmitting a presentation and cannot itself replace the presentation.

The first half of the book makes the same case that I do for consideration of human experience as a completely different phenomenon from either Darwinian evolution (which he and I both respect completely in its original sense as pertaining to natural selection for species development, and the extension into heredity by genetic probability), neuroscientific materialism, or information-theoretic idealism.

Yes – I agree that consciousness is neither information, function, nor matter.
Yes – I agree the human consciousness may be fundamentally different from other species.
Yes – I agree that the compulsive overconfidence in evolution and neuroscience to explain human consciousness is misguided and ultimately pathological if taken literally (as he says, ‘Darwinitis’ and ‘Neuromania’)


Yes – I strongly agree with his characterization of exactly how the resultant philosophy of this amounts to closing the door on the validity of experience. The similarity between his “disappearance of appearance” (p. 140-145) to my “De-presentation” convinces me that we both see the Emperor’s New Clothes aspect of all of this in the same glaringly-obvious way. We both understand that despite the dismissive assurances, there is an unbridgeable chasm between what neural activity actually is and what it is supposed to produce (qualia, intention).

With the author’s medical background, I appreciate his critique of neuroscientific epistemology. While I’m not qualified to give an opinion on that, I do see his point that the success of neurological mapping of consciousness may be closer to a modern descendant of phrenology than we are led to believe.


It does seem hard to justify the redundancy and ambiguity of neurotransmitter roles in the presumed functioning of consciousness. If I asked what neurotransmitter is most responsible for generating the feeling of reward, there doesn’t seem to be any that do not qualify. Arousal and reward applies equally to the Noradrenaline, Dopamine, and Cholinergic systems, with the Serotonin system’s correlation to “mood” easily applicable. If neuroscientific correlations with conscious experience were put up against pseudoscientific correlations I wonder how they would fare? How many scientists would submit to a reality show exhibition of medical vs astrological predictions like “Are You Smarter Than A Telephone Psychic?”

Not to diminish the medical application of neuroscience, but when it comes to stepping up to a theory of emotion and sensation, isn’t it a case of the pot calling the kettle unfalsifiable? Are we using fMRI’s and EEGs as a kind of occidental neuromancy – oracles of disorientation? Is the foundation of the neuron doctrine a placebo for scientists? I submit that any given group of ordinary people interpreting a canned astrological reading (or I Ching, numerology, etc), would have a similar level of consensus in a blind test against a group of neuroscientists trying to extrapolate character and destiny information from neurophysiological reports. Medical conditions, sure, but I would bet that when stacked up against Myers-Briggs or any kind of intuitive reading, the neuroscience is measurably more blind for predicting ordinary human personality characteristics.

When it comes to evolutionary genesis of consciousness, Tallis and I are also on the same page.

Think, after all, what unconscious mechanisms have actually achieved: the evolution of the material universe; the processes that are supposed to have created life and conscious organisms; the growth, development and most of the running of even highly conscious organisms such as ourselves. If you had to undertake something really difficult, for example growing in utero a brain with all its connections in place – consciousness is the last thing you would want to oversee the task. p. 176

In this light, we can see that consciousness is actually a disability that could only dilute the speed and efficiency of an automatic mental mechanism. In our weakness and prevarication, we waste precious time in making up our minds when a pure computation would simply yield the most probable success outcome and execute behavior accordingly.

He sees, as I do, that until there is awareness, what is the point of valuing ‘survival’? Without something to tell the difference between one species and another, what does it matter which invisible forms replace each other at any particular unexperienced time?

Tallis talks about the importance of seeing consciousness from the prospective view rather than the retrospective. Not taking consciousness for granted is the most critical aspect of approaching consciousness – to find consciousness from preconsciousness rather than taking the elements of consciousness for granted in justifying their own appearance. I have been calling this “The Elephant In Every Room” problem, and see it is the most significant hurdle that we face in building a 21st century understanding of consciousness.

I think that rigorously applying the prospect view of consciousness from preconsciousness is the only hope we have of not begging the question of the origin of awareness. Of course we can make a wireframe model of agents and actors operating in a world of interactive shadows (data), but why does this data need “us”? If you have actual information already, why invent some phenomenological layer of illusion and an illusory audience to imagine that it is not a simulation? (at least, until the illusory audience evolves to the point that it can teach itself to think that it is questioning the validity of the simulation…which somehow gives us the power to access another, unsimulated ‘reality’).

In his chapter “Bewitched by Language”, professor Tallis exposes the sentimental bias and wishful thinking behind computational models of intelligence. He gets the Symbol Grounding problem, as did Leibniz in his Windmill Argument and Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment. (Personally I like my example of the polite trash can that waves ‘THANK YOU’ every time you use it). He sees that information is only real in the context of conscious entities using communication devices, and not a primitive substance of pseudo-substance that haunts the universe from the outside.

While Darwinitis requires its believers only to impute human characteristics to animals (and vice versa), Neuromania demands of its adepts that they should ascribe human characteristics to physical processes taking place in the brain. – p.183

…when you personify the brain and bits of brain, then it is easy to “brainify” the person. – p. 187

The author gives us the best and least understood arguments for the failure of contemporary science to grasp the explanatory gap and hard problem of consciousness. It is interesting then, that out of this perfect and wholehearted agreement, I come to diametrically opposite conclusions than he seems to be coming to – which I will get into in the next post.

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