Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Chopra "challenge"

We have a lot to be
proud of; a proceedings with a book forthcoming and this very well
attended seminar series, with record audiences for a not-for-credit
seminar. It is therefore all the more regrettable that an ex-member of
our discussion group sullied the level of discourse in an incident
currently playing out in the media of a $1 million reward for
“solving” the so-called  “hard problem”.

Such challenges are often deliberately attention-seeking, for example
proposing a reward for a perpetual motion machine which the laws of
physics expressly forbid. Some are genuine, and as such often see the
rewards rejected, as Grisha Perleman did after solving the Poincare
conjecture on the grounds that science should be its own edifying

 Some others, however, display a cynical nihilism and show a refusal
to accept any evidence. It is like saying that someone did not jump
seven feet because a foot is now a meter. This incident is likely to
become notorious. For the record, a full solution to the problem as
stated was given to Deepak Chopra within 48 hours of his announcing it
in the SF Chronicle. The $1 million was claimed, and we look forward
to receiving it to amplify the activities of our group.

The talks

Terry Deacon confronted the issue of information, a concept which is
variously being used to explain consciousness, the emergence of order
in evolution, and much else. Len Talmy adduced evidence to show that
certain linguistic features presented themselves to consciousness more
than others. As was pointed out, this is remarkable work, particularly
if combined with his attack on embodiment as a universal panacea,
epitomized by spatial prepositions like “along” which are defined in
Euclidean space