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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Jason Wolfe: on 11/23/19 at 8:18am UTC, wrote Lorraine, I don't think you understand the Christians that you are...

Jason Wolfe: on 11/23/19 at 6:42am UTC, wrote Hi Kevin, I don't think the scientific community, and their views about...

Kevin Pryor: on 11/23/19 at 1:20am UTC, wrote If you take panpsychism seriously then all fundamental particles are...

Lorraine Ford: on 11/22/19 at 22:09pm UTC, wrote If you don’t correctly analyse a problem, then you won’t be able to see...

Jason Wolfe: on 11/16/19 at 2:04am UTC, wrote As for religious fundamentalists, I would rather deal with them, then with...

Jason Wolfe: on 11/16/19 at 1:49am UTC, wrote The best we can do with the environment is to plant more trees and...

Lorraine Ford: on 11/15/19 at 20:43pm UTC, wrote Re the topic of this blog: Agency While the religious fundamentalists...

Jason Wolfe: on 11/15/19 at 6:12am UTC, wrote I think physicists, in their effort to be mathematically and logically...


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FQXi BLOGS
December 6, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: More on agency from the 6th FQXi International Conference [refresh]
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Blogger Ian Durham wrote on Sep. 26, 2019 @ 19:00 GMT
There has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding my recent blog post about my talk on free will at the 6th FQXi conference this past July. In my work I am merely attempting to mathematically model the behavior that we most often associate with free will and agency. But what is agency? Is there room for free will within physics?

As Carlo Rovelli noted in his talk, there is a tension between decision and action within physics. It doesn’t help that agency, which involves both decisions and actions, is treated differently by different physicists. Rovelli believes that an agent should be describable within any theory of description and that no new physics is needed. Clearly he is not a dualist. Yet he also says that we should define agency as whatever happens in the cases in which someone, i.e. the agent, makes a decision.

But what is an agent? According to Susanne Still, they are observers that act on their environment: they sense, process information, and act. To Still, the description of decision making as an optimization process, or any such utilitarian approach, is fraught with problems. What we really want is a theory where behaviors emerge from first principles. These principles should, in turn, reflect physical reality. In other words, physics limits what can actually happen, i.e. there are physical limits to what agents can do (environmental forcing, context, etc.), and thus a complete theory of agency needs to take these limits into account. But agency also involves intention or purpose which begs the question, asked by Larissa Albantakis: how can we distinguish autonomous actions from mere reflexes?
Larissa Albantakis
This is something I considered in my talk on free will. At some point our choices are made so quickly that we don’t even think about them and are therefore merely reflexive.

Albantakis’ answer to this question is to define an autonomous agent as being an open system that is stable and that has self-defined and self-maintained borders. Such a system also has the capacity to perform actions that are at least partially caused from within, i.e. states internal to the system can produce causal change. This, of course, begs the question, how do we identify these self-defined borders? This is done by tracing back through the causal chain and looking at the evolutionary environments associated with each step in the chain. In other words, it involves finding the actual causes of actions. In doing so it is possible to compare levels of consciousness to levels of intelligence (slides and video of Albantakis’ talk will appear here). In looking at the representative plot, what is most interesting is what is not on the main sequence such as AI (more intelligent, less conscious) and complex microorganisms (less intelligent, more conscious).
Consciousness versus intelligence from Larissa Albantakis' talk




At any rate, I find it interesting that there is a convergence of ideas happening here towards the language of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Rovelli suggests that agency is related to entropy growth, Still argues that thermodynamics places physical constraints on agency, Albantakis defines autonomous agents in terms of open systems, Karl Friston spoke of Markov blankets, and I develop a measure of free will (i.e. agency) in terms of statistical distributions.
Karl Friston


In a certain sense, this is perhaps not surprising given the close relationship between statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, and information processing. But is this convergence more than merely one of language? Can agency, intention, and purpose be adequately described in terms of statistics and information? Various speakers at the conference had widely diverging opinions on this. Alyssa Ney, for instance, generally defended physicalism which puts physics in a privileged place amongst the sciences.
Alyssa Ney
This view appears, at least on the surface, to be heavily reductionist. This can be contrasted with George Ellis’ view which suggests that we require a new language since the language of physicalism seems to be mostly reductionist and the world simply can’t be fully described in reductionist terms. During one of the panel sessions, Paavo Pylkaanan flatly claimed that physics cannot adequately describe the mind, at least not without new physics. Like Ellis (and unlike Ney), Pylkaanan does not believe that there necessarily is a fundamental level, let alone that physics represents it. By this argument, no field by itself can fully represent or capture the mind (see the debate over this here). It seems clear from this that this debate is likely to endure without some convincing empirical evidence that favors one view over another.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Sep. 27, 2019 @ 05:47 GMT
Do we "require a new language since the language of physicalism seems to be mostly reductionist and the world simply can’t be fully described in reductionist terms?"

Maybe, realism does indeed sometimes require some linguistical correction. If I got it correct from a recent report of sociologists, those who translated in the middle ages ancient literature into Althochdeutsch faced the difficulty that there was no expression for future time in it. They were forced to create it.

I see physics as a unfortunately reductionist method in the sense it always reduces anything to the conjectures of closed systems with no foundational difference between past and future, additionally blurred by the fuzzy notion of present state.

Physicalism reminds me of, sorry for being blunt, stupid absolutism in politics. Well, the many disciplines of science will go on merging together. However, when LaMettrie wrote "the man a machine", this was ridiculous rather than premature.

The illusion of fully describing the world may be even more ridiculous

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 27, 2019 @ 10:35 GMT
All this is very interesting.But I insist on many parameters.The intuition,the psychology,the education,the consciousness,the Vanity,the determinism,the will,the freewill,the agency need to have a correct universal algorythmic logic respecting this universal altruism.If not it's ruin of souls.This Vanity is an important parameter to take into account,we know all that Inside the sciences Community and specially in theoretical physics the vanity is enormous,all lol are persuaded and congratulate them inside small teams.Just to satisfy this Vanity and recognizings.Well in fact this problem is very serious and decrease the real velocity of evolution,it's sad in fact simply.Just due to this,the Vanity.Have you an algorythm to explain this parameter ? instead of this universal love correlated with the real hu_mility in-front-of this infinite Eternal consciousness ?If yes,so detail it mathematically.The business too can be interpreted and the real meaning of what is a team.Spherically yours jedis of The Sphere :)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 28, 2019 @ 23:02 GMT
1. The test for agency: IF people have agency, THEN people can have genuinely affected the climate of the planet, ELSE its just laws of nature affecting the climate of the planet (i.e. people, the climate, and everything else are just topological artefacts of the laws of nature).

When you boil it all down, Ian Durham, Carlo Rovelli, Susanne Still, Larissa Albantakis, Karl Friston and Alyssa Ney are all saying that it’s just laws of nature affecting the climate of the planet.

2. Re dualism:

There can be no Platonic-mind/ worldly-matter dualism. The only possible dualism is a matter/relationship dualism where matter is what knows and creates relationships. Then, agency can be seen as the ability to create a new relationship (representable by assigning a new number to a variable) in response to a situation: this type of agency has a genuine effect on the planet.

But physics’ dualism is the mind/matter dualism where a dumb puppet matter is ruled by foreign powers (Platonic rules). With physics’ dualism, all “agency” is pseudo-agency, and it’s just the Platonic rules affecting the climate of the planet.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 09:27 GMT
QUANTUM COMPUTING?

not easy,maybe the spherical knots and convergences with binar algorythms. But all this is really difficult.We must understand what are the particles and what are our universal algorythms.Strings aren't suffient.Think about sphères and their motions and oscillations.

we start with the zero and a kind of Grover algorythm

.qubits ,entanglement,superimposing….....We need to converge with our quantum particles but triviality is complex

IBM are on the road with convergent qubits

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 23:26 GMT
Outcomes can be thought of as being representable by numbers that apply to a set of variables. Both the outcomes resulting from agency/ free will, and “ordinary” outcomes, can be thought of as being representable by a set of number changes.

However, looking at the world as a system, physics has absolutely no idea why ordinary number change occurs: physics assumes that ordinary number change just “happens”. So, there is no baseline for a discussion about number-change outcomes that result from agency/ free will.

Physics has no idea why any number should ever change, i.e. physics has absolutely no idea of what is driving the world-system. And clearly, a set of equations and numbers does not constitute a system: there is nothing driving this system. Physics does not yet seem to understand that system drivers (including number change) can only be represented algorithmically: you need algorithms to represent the causal aspects in any moving, changing system.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Sep. 29, 2019 @ 23:31 GMT
(continued)

Computational neuroscientist Larissa Albantakis defines an “autonomous agent” as: “(1) an open system with stable, self-defined and self-maintained causal borders, (2) with the capacity to perform actions that are (partially) caused from within” [1]. Her pdf contains a lot of diagrams purporting to represent cause in an autonomous agent system. But she has failed to establish a baseline: she has failed to say how cause in a system without an “autonomous agent” should be represented. But clearly even without her “autonomous agent”, a moving, changing system already needs algorithms to represent cause.

1. When is an action caused from within? Quantifying the causal chain leading to actions in simulated agents, Larissa Albantakis, Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World, FQXi's 6th International Conference, https://fqxi.org/conference/talks/2019

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:17 GMT
When I say that Larissa Albantakis and all the other like-minded ning-nongs are stupid, I mean it in the full sense of the word [1]. Like saying that “the earth is flat”, or “the moon is made of green cheese”, saying that “machines (computers/ robots/ AIs) are intelligent” [2] is contradicted by embarrassingly basic facts:

1) Symbols, i.e. things that human beings have created, represent no intrinsic information: any information that symbols might represent is meaning that human beings have imposed on the symbols. So a string of symbols, like 011000111010110, might represent information from the point of view of some human beings, but it represents no information from the point of view of a computer/ robot/ AI .

2) A computer/ robot/ AI is a special setup that processes strings of symbols, including symbolised algorithmic procedures. These symbolic strings of 0s and 1s are totally devoid of information from the point of view of a computer/ robot/ AI. The 0s and 1s are physically represented (i.e. re-symbolised) by an electrical voltage: i.e. there are multiple levels of symbolisation going on. Just like a ball rolling down an incline, there is nothing but the operation of the laws of nature going on inside a computer/ robot/ AI: there is nothing intelligent going on inside a computer any more than a ball rolling down an incline demonstrates intelligence.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:28 GMT
(See continuation below: Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:19 GMT)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Sep. 30, 2019 @ 21:19 GMT
(continued)

3) A computer/ robot/ AI does not make decisions any more than a ball rolling down an incline makes decisions. Computers/ robots/ AIs merely have structures which implement pre-decided ways of handling incoming symbolic representations: all necessary decisions have been made, or agreed to, by human beings via the computer program.

1. Stupid: “Having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense”, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/stupid (Oxford dictionary)

2. Page 37, When is an action caused from within? Quantifying the causal chain leading to actions in simulated agents, Larissa Albantakis, Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World, FQXi's 6th International Conference, https://fqxi.org/conference/talks/2019

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Steve Agnew wrote on Oct. 9, 2019 @ 02:47 GMT
You know...I like her approach. She is on the right track. But, of course, she does not mention the role of neural resonance in her discussions of agent causality.

Why is not the EEG spectra of neural resonance important? Are EEG just coincidences? Do EEG show agency?

And of course, no mention of quantum or of quantum phase...is there no room for quantum phase with neural action potentials?

Once again, we need a good model of neural aware matter to have any hope of making sense out of agency...

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 11, 2019 @ 12:27 GMT
While climate change rages round the world, the theories of physics have no mechanism whereby control over outcomes can be transferred from the laws of nature TO PEOPLE, so that people could have some control over their own outcomes. (And clearly, it would be a miracle of biblical proportions if control over outcomes were transferred from a law to a living thing.)

I.e. the theories of physics say that the laws of nature cause ALL outcomes including climate change outcomes: people have NO effect on outcomes, despite their feelings that they have some control over their own outcomes.

So, clearly, physicists are a pack of idiots: they are on the same level as fundamentalist Christian anthropogenic climate change deniers.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Nov. 11, 2019 @ 19:10 GMT
Lol but you are a phenomen you Lorraine, I laugh but you exagerate nonetheless, the physicists are not a pack of idiots lol, I am persuaded that many physicists are universal altruists understanding that we have made errors in industrialising our Earth and its correlated economy without consciousness.It is evident for all generalists,so I don t understand why you generalise but it is laughing how you speak lol friendly

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Lorraine Ford replied on Nov. 11, 2019 @ 21:15 GMT
Steve,

Papering over the cracks [1] in physics' view of the world does no one any good. Why don't you stop seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses [2]? Physics' view of the world is fundamentally wrong in a very important way.

......

1. If you paper over the cracks, you try to hide all the things that are wrong with something. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/paper-o
ver-the-cracks

2. With an unduly cheerful, optimistic, or favorable view of things. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/through+rose-colored+glass
es

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Steve Dufourny replied on Nov. 12, 2019 @ 11:54 GMT
Hi Lorraine, I have difficultties to understand why you are against the physics and physicicts like if we were a secte without consciousness,It is not the case and the physics like the maths have permitted to improve this planet and when the consciousness is correlated ,it becomes very relevant,So why you dislike lol the physics and physicicts ? I don t understand you like if the theorists and physicists or mathematicians were unconcious and evil persons,it is odd Lorraine.The persons that I unite for example are all physicists ,even philodoctorates and they are ok to share ideas to change this planet with Concrete ideas,solutions to convice this UN.So they are real universal altruists you know who don t need courses about what is the universal truth and its correlated universal love if I can say.Regards

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 11, 2019 @ 20:55 GMT
How physics sees climate change: laws of nature caused climate change because only laws of nature, not people, have power over outcomes; power to determine outcomes cannot be miraculously transferred from the laws of nature to people.

How the real world works: people (and other living things) have some power over their own outcomes; its not just laws of nature that have power over outcomes. No miracles happen: clearly, matter has had some power over its own outcomes from the beginning of the world, and this is why living things made out of matter also have some power over their own outcomes.

When will physics grow up??

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Kevin Pryor replied on Nov. 12, 2019 @ 10:35 GMT
I agree with you.

Panpsychism (particles are conscious) and cosmopsychism (our finite universe is conscious) seems to follow from this idea.

Our universe would be a parent to its 1080 particles. The low mass or low energy particles would have less free will and subjective time speed than the high mass or high energy particles.

The universe would have the free will to enforce its laws of physics or not (to a certain extant) -- miracles or "Acts of the Universe" would be possible. The idea is that conscious particles grow up after a very long time to be conscious universes and thus would still have free will.

The universe would socialize with other conscious universes. The Universe would raise particles of its own by programming its own spacetime with the laws of physics but would still have the ability to change those laws or temporarily suspend them using its own free will.

The idea is that free will has supremacy over most of the laws of physics at the level of universes. This would kind of make the Universe our personal god or universal parent capable of granting miracles.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Nov. 12, 2019 @ 19:23 GMT
Kevin,

I think your fantastical speculations are completely excessive, and completely unsupportable.

But physics’ view of the nature of the world is clearly very wrong:

How physics sees climate change: laws of nature caused climate change because only laws of nature, not people, have power over outcomes; power to determine outcomes cannot be miraculously transferred from the laws of nature to people.

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Kevin Pryor replied on Nov. 12, 2019 @ 22:15 GMT
Conway's free will theorem is that if we have free will, so do elementary particles. You could also argue that if we have free will, the finite universe has free will by similar arguments. The Universe exercising free will would be perceived by us as a miracle since it couldn't be predicted by the laws of physics and would be purposeful.

I think if you want to defend libertarian free will it might be logical to defend the possibility of miracles or free will acts of the Universe.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 12, 2019 @ 21:28 GMT
The laws of nature have power over outcomes in the world: NOTHING CAN BE DONE to change these laws or alter the outcomes and events that these laws bring about.

ONLY A MIRACLE of biblical proportions could cause these powers over outcomes to be transferred from the laws of nature to human beings, so that human beings have GENUINE agency i.e. power over outcomes. But there are no miracles.

In other words: PHYSICS IS SAYING THAT HUMAN BEINGS CAN HAVE NO EFFECT ON THE CLIMATE OF THE PLANET; physics is saying that climate change is caused by nothing but the laws of nature.

Clearly, physics is a fool.

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Jason Mark Wolfe wrote on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 01:12 GMT
Hi All,

Given that we live in a fine tuned universe, a Designer/Creator is identically 100% probable, do any of you ever consider changing how you answer the question of: time. How is time implemented? Does time start at the Planck scale, from a point, and expand outward at the speed of light (in 3 dimensions), like a wavefront, a sphere that has available frequency states at the surface, something that mixes to become spacetime geometry. Any thought?

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Georgina Woodward replied on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 02:34 GMT
The experience of time is generated by observers using information generated from received sensory stimuli. The sense of vision requires input of electromagnetic radiation,'light'. So if considering just visual aspect of perception of time, yes the signals do spread out from the material sources (emitted or reflected from ) at the speed of light. The 3 dimensional space-time content that is perceived is the observation products generated by the observer, not space and time external to the observer. As the seen products are formed using information generated from received signals, the products do not have internal structure or structure pertaining to obscured surfaces of the source material objects. What is seen is seen to be present. The sequence of presents gives experienced passage of time. The sequence closely matches the order of signal input.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 04:15 GMT
The actual experience of passage of time comes from updating of conscious awareness of what is seen as present. I remember, as a child, staring at a large electric clock. It did not have a tick but the hands moved continually and smoothly when not stared at. But by watching it intently there was a definite jumping forward of the perceived hands. The jumping was not at precisely equal intervals. I mentioned that the clock had an irregular tick to my parents who informed me that I must be mistaken. I was not mistaken about what I had seen. I was not seeing motion of the material hands of the clock but self generated semblance of the clock hands with intermittent updating of that image.

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Jason Mark Wolfe replied on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 06:04 GMT
Hi Georgina,

It was hard enough trying to figure out a first cause mechanism that cause physics as we observe. Now you want to talk about consciousness. I'll just say that I'm satisfied with the NDE evidence, that consciousness is transcendental and somehow gets integrated into these biological fleshy bodies. I am a believer in the idea that the mechanism of time creates mechanisms of memory as something that exists on the (past) side of the spacetime continuum. It's definitely some non corporeal thing related to wave functions, entanglement.

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Jason Mark Wolfe wrote on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 02:45 GMT
Why can't time be made from spherical wavefronts, starting as points and radiating

Out like ripples on a pond. The wavefront has an increasing surface area of A=4pi(ct)^2. The wavefront adds to other wavefronts.

I have a suspicion that if two entangled photons each undergo a centrifuge event, I think the entanglement will store a gravitational potential equal to the difference in frequency (after centrifuging). The entangled photon could be made to travel along a fiber optic cable that runs from the inner to the outer radius of a spinning disk. The entanglement itself would record the path of the entangled photons as changes to a photon momentum state.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 15, 2019 @ 20:43 GMT
Re the topic of this blog: Agency

While the religious fundamentalists believe that God is in control of outcomes in the world and the climate, physicists believe that laws of nature are in control of outcomes in the world and the climate.

Neither the religious fundamentalists nor the physicists have yet taken the first step in facing up to the full horror of the world: the nature of the world is such that individual people, and other individual living things, have genuine control over aspects of their own outcomes: it’s not just “God” or laws of nature controlling the outcomes.

The religious fundamentalists and the physicists have yet to face up to the full horror of the situation in the world: the nature of the world is such that people have genuine responsibility for their own outcomes; people have had a genuine adverse effect on the climate of the planet.

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Jason Mark Wolfe replied on Nov. 16, 2019 @ 01:49 GMT
The best we can do with the environment is to plant more trees and encourage other nations not to dump their trash in the ocean.

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Nov. 22, 2019 @ 22:09 GMT
If you don’t correctly analyse a problem, then you won’t be able to see the correct solution to a problem.

E.g. fundamentalist Christians might believe that God is in control of the climate, and so the solution to the problem of fires, heatwaves, floods and drought is to pray to God.

Similarly, physics believes that laws of nature and randomness are 100% in control of everything: human behaviour, as well as fires, heatwaves, floods and drought. So physics believes that laws of nature, not human beings, are the sole cause of climate change. Unfortunately, neither praying nor anything else can change the laws of nature and randomness, so physics believes that there is nothing that can be done about climate change. Of course, there are physicists who indulge in doublethink, and claim that human beings have contributed to climate change, but physics has no mechanism whereby power over outcomes can be transferred from the laws of nature to human beings.

So, assuming that human beings have indeed genuinely contributed to climate change outcomes, then physics is wrong about the fundamental nature of the world. Clearly, the world is such that human beings right down to bacteria (and beyond?) DO have some power over outcomes.

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Jason Mark Wolfe replied on Nov. 23, 2019 @ 08:18 GMT
Lorraine,

I don't think you understand the Christians that you are thinking about. The Christian right that I know, is concerned about their freedoms, their heritage, their jobs, and their way of life.

As to the environment, everyone agrees that planting more trees is a great idea. There are also ways to protect our forests that California seems to be unaware of.

Jason

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Kevin Pryor wrote on Nov. 23, 2019 @ 01:20 GMT
If you take panpsychism seriously then all fundamental particles are conscious. But I think an electrons subjective time speed is much less than us -- a billion years might seem subjectively like one year. Electrons would be dreaming and are only using their free will to develop their minds (their own spacetime internal geometry) with dreams the universe is supplying. An electron's external...

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Jason Mark Wolfe replied on Nov. 23, 2019 @ 06:42 GMT
Hi Kevin,

I don't think the scientific community, and their views about pansychism, are compatible with the consistent facts and observations about our universe. For one, it is established that the physics constants are too fine tuned, about 1 part in 10^10^128, to be an accident. It is an unavoidable fact that the universe was created by an Intelligent Designer. The second fact that stands out are the Near Death experiences that cannot be attributed the brain function; read up on Dr Ebon Alexander. In a nutshell, how can someone have a very clear and crisp consciousness experience when their brain is so badly effected by encephalitis. When people come close to death, they feel God's love, and various non corporeal experiences. You science people have avoided these facts and testimonials, but they're not going away.

An honest acknowledgement of the facts seems to indicate that we do have a non corporeal conscious existence. We are also encouraged to care about our own lives and our neighbors.

I have been pushing this issue with the science community because people are stressed out about living a difficult life and then dying, ceasing to exist. The greatest healing that can come to humanity is for the scientific community to let go of their preconceived ideas, and looks at the data.

Jason Wolfe

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