Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beethoven Piano Sonata op. 7 in E-Flat Major Artur Schnabel

This is one of my favorite piano sonatas, especially the second movement.  I've never heard anyone play it better than Schnabel did.  Too bad the fidelity of the recording isn't better but it is still one of the really great Beethoven recordings of all time.

Horrible Lessons From The Internet Dispel Romantic Thinking

The internet has made so much available that was previously hidden from easy access that you can stumble across some of the most disturbing images and facts by accident.  That happened to me a couple of days ago and I'm going to write about it.  I will warn you that, while I won't go into detail, if you follow up online you will see some horrible photographs and read some horrific accounts of the murders of real people.  

By coincidence I had a spat with one of those atheists who make the incompetent though often repeated claim that morals precede religion in human history during the same week that I noticed the phrase "death by a thousand cuts" in something I read.  The atheist argument used an old and incompetently cited example of morality atheists often and wrongly claim is divorced from religion, The Analects of Confucius.  That is an argument, the incompetence, not to mention illiteracy of which I once wrote about.   I don't think I thought about that as, out of curiosity, I made the huge and disturbing mistake of looking up "death by a thousand cuts" online and found out that it wasn't some amusingly exotic cultural reference to be a throw away line delivered in a Charlie Chan accent in a B grade Hollywood movie but what must be one of the most sadistically barbarous and officially sanctioned forms of state murder ever devised.  It refers to the the slow and systematic cutting and dismemberment of a living person, mixing horrific torture with public shaming and the anguish of their loved ones with and the horrific prospect for the person being tortured to death believing that their punishment would be eternal, guaranteeing their disability into eternity.  And, it shouldn't ever be forgotten, this was a form of state torture-murder that was legal under what is considered one of the great beacons of civilization, the Chinese imperial government, apparently sanctioned by its official religion, Confucianism.  Though, apparently, there was a long standing, though ineffective, attempt to abolish the horrifically cruel and evil practice for centuries before it was officially abolished in 1905.  Unfortunately the practice lasted long enough to produce photographic documentation of executions carried out by that method which I would advise you avoid.  I wish I had.  Though facing the fact that when you hear the phrase tossed off in an awful movie that it was a real and horrible thing might be more responsible than preserving an ignorance of it.

I don't know if the stories of it being practiced by the Chinese communists in the decades after 1905 are true or if they are propaganda.  Heavens knows that they murdered tens of millions of people so some of those being sadistically killed is not out of the real of possibility.  Executioner is a profession that might be expected to attract people who would enjoy doing such things and dictatorial rulers certainly found it to their liking to keep the evil thing a legal and cultural institution in one of the most widely cited of high civilizations in human history. And the Chinese imperial system is far from the only government in the world that systematically practiced that form of sadistic terrorism.  The Romans, the passing of whose empire civilized people are supposed to regret as Europe "fell into a dark age" were among the most accomplished and systematic practitioners in state terror by sadistic execution.  And it is a pattern that repeats around the world, the Aztec and Incas, etc.  Just why we are supposed to regret the falling of empires is something I don't quite understand on that basis.  As bad as some of the things that follow can be, the systems they replace were almost never less bad. 

As a good, modern, anti-imperial lefty I grew up with a romantic view of cultures, religions and native governments that was entirely uninformed by their actual history.   In that I did exactly the same thing that some chauvinists do about their own culture and history, ignore the entire range of bad and evil that they contain.  Only, since I didn't happen to live in those other places, under other governmental and cultural evil, my romanticism about them ignored the burden that they imposed on the people who did live under them.   It's so easy to find the suffering of other people an acceptable price for them to pay, tolerating things on their behalf that we would campaign against if we had to live under it.

The very least we owe to those people who have been and may be the victims of official, legal torture and sadistic murder is to take that prospect as seriously as we would if it were a danger to us.  

After seeing those photographs and reading the history and descriptions of this form of state murder, I won't ever have quite the benign view of Chinese culture and history, just as finding out about the human sacrifices of the Druids and Norse pagans put me off of the nonsensically romantic view of pre-Christian Irish and Northern European culture.   The extent to which Christianity may have restrained the state from practicing that barbaric evil, it was superior to those religions that practiced human sacrifice and, whatever else you say about Christianity, its central figure was, himself, a victim of exactly that form of death under a religio-political imperial system and, in its scriptures, at least, opposed killing.  You can't say that for religio-political systems that sanction that kind of thing.  The biggest problem with Christians is that they don't practice what they profess nearly often enough. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Oh, To Have Been Bobby Timmons That Night

Art Blakey (dr)
Lee Morgan (t)
Wayne Shorter (ts)
Bobby Timmons (p)
Jimmy Merritt (b)

The Completely Bogus Economic Study Being Used To Claim that Science and Religion Are Enemies

Chris Mooney would seem to be trying to undo whatever good his previous work in pointing out that science and religion are not in an inevitable conflict was.  And it would seem that his latest column in his new campaign is pretty weak cannon fodder in that effort.   He entitles it "Study: Science And Religion Really Are Enemies After All" but the "study" he bases his column on doesn't really even address science, it addresses the number of patents produced in different geographic locations correlated with alleged measures of "religiosity" in those locations.  The study by Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues, as is typical of the genre of economics, these days, "filters" the data taken from PEW and a number of other compilers of data and what would more honestly be called "alleged data" and subjects them to a number of "filters" to "correct" for various factors.  Some of the filters are rather odd.  Here is how Mooney describes the process and its results.

"Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita," comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists "when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education."

That's the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different "regimes." The three kinds of regimes that they identify: a secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

It is in the process of this inquiry on the relationship between science, religion, and the state that the researchers dive into an analysis of patents, both in the United States and across the globe. And the results are pretty striking.First, the researchers looked at the raw data on patents per capita (taken from the World Intellectual Property Organization's data) and religiosity (based on the following question from the World Values Survey: "Independently of whether you go to church or not, would you say you are: a religious person, not a religious person, a convinced atheist, don't know"). And they found a "strong negative relationship" between the two. In other words, for countries around the world, more religion was tied to fewer patents per individual residing in the country.

Those data aren't shown here, however, because in many ways, that would be too simplistic of an analysis. It is clear that many other factors than just religion (wealth, education, and so on) influence a country's number of patents per capita. What's striking, however, is that after the authors controlled for no less than five other standard variables related to innovation (population, levels of economic development, levels of foreign investment, educational levels, and intellectual property protections) the relationship still persisted.

This study is most useful because it demonstrates how even very absurd and attenuated efforts to generate buzz by promoting materialist-atheist nonsense can get published in academia and be echoed in the popular media, serving as atheist click bait among those who believe themselves to be beacons of scientific rationalism when they would seem to lack even an inclination to check facts. And even the most minor of effort to investigate the claims on which the methodology is based exposes the absurdity of it.

The fact is that the economists don't establish that holders of patents are in any way typical of the residents in a given geographic location, which would be vital for their claims to be valid.  For all they know individual patent holders could, when subjected to this same kind of dodgy simulated averaging, be more religious than the general population of the place and that that could vary from one country or state to another.  I haven't found any survey like that done.

One thing that is certain, holders of patents are not typical of residents of any country but are a tiny minority who are, so, atypical.  They are often not even residents of the place where a patent is issued.  Not to mention that most patents in some places, such as the United States, are held by "persons" who are not people at all.

The first questions that came to me were how many patents are issued in a country, to start with, how many holders of patents hold more than one of those. The number of patents issued in the United States are fewer than half a million a year, for example in 2012 that number is 468,960 in which year the population of the country is given as 313,910,000.  So, we start with a good reason to doubt that patent holders would be typical of the general population.  And while I wasn't able to quickly locate how many of the patent holders held more than one patent, I was able to find out some rather interesting facts, for example identifying the person granted a patent in a geographic location is no guarantee that that is where the person is from.

In 2013, 51 percent of the 303,000 patents filed in the U.S. were of foreign origin, according to the USPTO. That's a decrease of one percentage point compared to 2012, but about equal to the percentage of foreign patents granted every year for the past decade. To get some perspective, in 1963, only 18 percent of patents originated from foreign sources.

I don't know of what kind of "filter" the economists could use that would repair the damage that fact would do to their research method of comparing the already atypical patent holder to the imaginary religion-averaged typical resident of a geographic area.   I'm not certain but I don't think the PEW numbers they used would have included foreign residents in the geographic area for which they report their numbers.  I would like to hear how they dealt with that fact, if they didn't, merely, as it seems, ignore that inconvenient truth.   And there is worse news for Bénabou's methodology in that same article those figures were taken from.

The force of foreign innovation is not only felt in patent creation, it's also in the number of startups foreigners create in the U.S. The two are frequently related, as the company usually commercializes the patented idea or product.
Additionally, more than half of startups in Silicon Valley were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs, according to Wadhwa and the Kauffman Foundation. (Kauffman's most recent index, released on Wednesday, also indicates that immigrant entrepreneurs are currently starting businesses at a rate roughly twice that of native-born business owners.)

I heartily recommend you read that article which goes into quite a bit of detail that gives legal and economic reasons that a lot of the patents issued in the United States are issued to foreign individuals and companies started by them, which, in itself is an insurmountable hurdle for the study Chris Mooney depends on.   The number of patents issued, not to people who are the ones who report their level of religiosity in the PEW surveys, but to corporations is rather large.

Inventors who work for private companies or the Federal Government commonly assign ownership of their patents to their employers; self-employed or independent inventors typically retain ownership of their patents. Therefore, examining patent data by the owner's sector of employment can provide a good picture of a sector's inventive work. Corporations owned 82 percent of patents granted to U.S. entities (including other U.S. organizations, the Federal Government, and independent U.S. resident inventors) in 2001.[21] This percentage has gradually increased over time. From 1987 to 1997, corporate-owned patents accounted for between 77 and 79 percent of total U.S.-owned patents. Since 1997, corporations have generally increased their share of total patents, rising to 80 percent in 1999, 81 percent in 2000, and 82 percent in 2001.

Individuals (independent inventors) are the second-largest group of U.S. patent owners. Before 1988, individuals owned, on average, 23 percent of all patents granted to U.S. entities.[22] This figure has trended downward since then, to a low of 17 percent in 2001. The Federal Government's share of patents averaged 3 percent from 1963 to 1987, eventually falling to 1.1 percent in 1999.[23] Its share remained at about 1 percent in 2000 and 2001.[24]

The methodology of the study could not overcome the fact that their proposed comparison is between apples and watermelons.   I am certain that the PEW surveys do not include the "religion" of start ups and public corporations, though perhaps they should, considering the recent and appalling Supreme Court rulings in that area.

Chris Mooney's equation of the issuance of a patent as representing "science" is also highly problematic.  Patents don't necessarily represent new science, new applications of science or even any science.  Many are issued for things that could be called "science" only by the most tortured of stretches.  In my reading I came across the curious fact that Jamie Lee Curtis is the holder of a patent for a disposable diaper which has a pocket in it to hold baby wipes.  The pocket is water proof, which is more than you can say for his article and the study it is based on.

I also remembered that I have a relative who holds a patent, one on a minor variation of a design for a drain board for a sink.  He needed to patent it because he could be accused of violating a design patent unless he protected his innovation which was done with no science happening, whatsoever.  He's a Catholic.

Update:  While shaving, it occurred to me that since patent laws are different in different countries and states,  there is not a uniform entity that is a "patent" and that the primary reason for patents being issued is not the promotion of new science but financial and, in their most allegedly idealistic explanation, a promotion of consumer product innovation.   To use the issuing of patents as a universal measurement of scientific activity and support is simply illogical on that basis alone.

Update 2:  HA!

Update 3:  In the author's graph of American states, Delaware is listed high up in the level of innovation along with Idaho.  I don't know about Idaho but the fact is that the position of Delaware is likely due to the well known fact that it is incredibly favorable to corporations incorporated under its law and so is the official location of a large percentage of U.S. corporations.  If the percentage of patent holding by corporations holds for them, that state would be expected to have a disproportionate representation in the issuance of patents.  Which would have nothing to do with the religious character of its human residents or its support for scientific activity.  I suspect there are many such factors that would skew the results for reasons not covered in the claims.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

That An Idea Is Shared Is No Refutation or Confirmation Of It

I hate to have to break the fact to some of my detractors but even people you claim have the worst case of cooties in the history of the universe share a lot more in common with you than the odd idea or expression that you assert I've got in common with them.  To think that associating an idea with such a person is the ultimate reason to reject that idea would mean you would have to give up just about anything you could possibly think.   Just as an example, you share your atheism with such people as the scientific racists William Shockley, Francis Crick and James Watson.  Not to mention such racists and homicidal mad men as Martin Borman,  Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and the various members of the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

It is, really, a kind of thinking I remember from about the age of nine.   I remember another boy in my class made me so angry that I felt a tidal wave of hatred and, at its deepest moment, the idea that such a person could exist in the same universe was intolerable to me.  But it passed.  I may have realized that we shared the same air, in the same classroom.  We were even bullied by some of the same bullies.  While we were never friends and there were times I felt almost as angry with him, eventually, as I grew up a bit, I could even look on him as a suffering person, just as I was, who didn't have some of the advantages I enjoyed - even if size and strength were not one of those - and who I look on today with quite a bit of sympathy for his life that is blighted in a number of ways, some of those, I'm certain, from the bullying we both endured.

So, bunky, be my guest, grow up and you'll get over it.  You can learn a lot from making the effort to sympathize with people you despise.   There is nothing sadder than to look at some of your heroes in their 60s, 70s and 80s who clearly never did grow up and are just as nasty as a nasty 9 year old boy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Question And Answer

How come you write about this so much?

Because I think it's important and because it interests me.   When I started looking into what there was to atheist propaganda and materialist ideology I was also interested in how incredibly weak their arguments are, now much of it you have to already be convinced of to buy their arguments.   If you're not already a materialist it's really not something you need to take on faith because it is truly not deserving of the reputation for rigor and reliability that it claims.   

6. Granting Ideological Privilege Is Intellectually Dishonest No Matter In What Field Or What Ideology

If you have read much of this series looking into E. O. Wilson's article in this month's Harper's magazine, I hope you will see the stunning range of claims he has made, some entirely baseless speculations, calling them "science".  And I hope you will see that his real motive is not to discover reality but to use such "science" to attack competing ideas.  I hope that you have also considered how much of what has been called "science" has that same motive and follows the same dishonest practices.

The reliance on that old standby of his ideological school, issuing promissory notes on what research yet to be done and even yet to be conceived of will deliver, permeates his work.

In our academic culture and its product, the quasi-officially defined "educated public." that widespread practice feeds off of the reputation science won for delivering reliable information, based on what is, actually, only a part of what has been called "science".   Much of what has been officially designated to be "science" by scientists putting that stamp of approval on it, has been quite unreliable.  But the habit of thought developed in the past three centuries, especially among those whose educational background is insufficient to allow them to understand what is contained in science and to think critically of scientific claims, allows ideologues such as Wilson to get away with murder when they do this.

I have come to see that one of the groups of people who ignorantly allow them to kill off intellectual integrity are publishers and alleged journalists who have so much of the market for the promotion of information and ideas.  Especially the publishers and editors of prestigious magazines.   That is on display in Wilson's article, it is what he does all throughout this article and during his career since the mid-1970s.   As mentioned early in this series, he is only one of a number of such materialist ideologues who has gotten away with doing that.

Materialism has retained a position in the habitual thinking of the educated public that it lost in physics with the rise of quantum mechanics beginning about a hundred-ten years ago.  Materialists such as Sean Carroll have renamed their ideology such things as "naturalism" or "physicalism" while retaining the same ideology, even as their science and, more so, the philosophical basis of science has pretty much ruled it out as a valid ideological frame with which to reach a deep understanding of the universe.   Even among those who should know better that habit of thought is so thoroughly ingrained that they violently resent anyone questioning it and testing its assumptions and speculations.

Perhaps reinforced by the prestige and privilege, the fame and repute such scientists gain through an entirely overblown belief in what their field does and what it is among many people, they get out of the habit of questioning themselves and putting their ideas to the most rigorous of tests.  The professional advantage they gain could certainly account for their uniformly arrogant confrontation of people who question them even as they claim that all of science must be so questioned, that science lives by such questioning.  In that they are very much like a certain type of clergymen who are far more interested in their clerical privilege and prestige than in the actual substance of the religion through which they achieve their expectation of entitlement to those.   The same forms of corruption that resulted from the establishment of churches under governments or academic institutions is certainly the result of making materialism the established religion of the modern world.   It is just such clergy who have generated the most effective attacks on religion.  

As I mentioned before, the constant repetition of granting flawed or baseless scientific claims, guaranteed on the basis that they support materialism, only to have those ideas turn out to be false, will catch up with it and destroy the value of the name, "science" in the general culture.  That is especially true when the products of science mix both the potential for enormous harm, eugenics, nuclear weapons, petroleum geography, etc. with the spectacle of serial refutations of previously sold science such as are found in the less exact sciences, nutrition, pharmaceuticals, the behavioral sciences, and outright scientific fraud that must be retracted because it was so approved despite being reviewed.

The extent to which such growing skepticism has already damaged the public acceptance of valid science is certainly worth asking as well as identifying those "sciences" that are habitually prone to producing such fraudulent results and forcing them to clean up their acts.

I will conclude this series either later this week or next week.   Wilson's article is so full of errors of thought and outrageously overblown claims that it's hard to know when to stop.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Quick Answer (Corrected and extended with more time given to it the next day)

No.  You don't get to pull that bait and switch.  You:

1. Insist that consciousness is a physical phenomenon which evolved, on the basis of a promissory note guaranteeing that what will be shown by as of yet to be done science with mice will support your claims of how consciousness evolved in the human brain.  

2. But when presented with a study which,  for the first time, quite shatters the long standing assumption that the physical bodies of mice were enough like humans for people to safely make far less speculative physiological claims for the use of them in immunological studies, now you want to, somehow, claim that consciousness is a "special" kind of physical phenomenon and that your hopes for it are unaffected by only science done in that area. 

Either consciousness is just another aspect of the physical body like the immune system or it isn't.  You don't get to claim it is and then to, somehow, claim the study I cited isn't relevant to your research plan. 

You should decide which it is, either you really believe in your claims that consciousness is physical and that studying mouse brains in order to make claims about the evolution of human brains will lead to understanding of it, having this study used to refute your contention, or, in the face of recent science, you abandon that claimed route to supporting your belief.  

I think you'll find the second of those alternatives easier than trying to explain why consciousness is different from other aspects of physiology while, at the same time, claiming it is not different.

Of course you could drop your unfounded contention that consciousness is known to be a physical attribute of animals with highly developed brains and that science can arrive at an understanding of it as a physical entity. You could maintain an attitude of agnostic skepticism of all such unevidenced claims, including the ones you make. 

I haven't gone far into why I doubt that's the case, merely suggesting the prospect that, as it would seem, consciousness, itself is not a physical entity and as such would not be like physical entities in its properties, attributes and abilities.  I've made one such argument  here, extended here and here.  

Every time I try to match what is known about the experience of thinking, and as I experience it, I can't match it to what is known about the way DNA works or how the physical structures of the brain come into being to the speed and process or that experience.  For example, considering how many ideas we have, including the ideas we have and modify into other ideas or abandon in favor of other ideas or for calling a truce between competing ideas, where are those proteins or tissues that embody those ideas in the physical organ, the brain?  Why haven't they been found? Certainly people who have more ideas would have more of those physical entities in their brains, where are they  Is there a limited shelf space available within that small organ?   And I could go back to the speed with which ideas form, in real time and ask if the production of those proteins, their assembly, their folding, their incorporation into tissues of exactly the form and function so as to embody, precisely the idea they embody and not some other idea - not to mention how DNA and the bodies' chemistry know how to do that for ideas that have never existed in the human line of development now or in the distant past. 

I think it is a far more parsimonious holding that thinking is very, very unlikely to be the result of any known physical processes or even contained in them, though, certainly, the articulation and expression of thoughts are dependent on the physical organs and tissues of the body.   But that's not a scientific speculation or holding since once you remove consciousness from the realm of physical existence, you  remove the possibility that science can trap it and put it in a box to study it.   

Perhaps it cannot be entrapped within boundaries the way physical entities can be.  In which case it would not be definable, definition being the act of setting boundaries within which something can exist.  The radical difference of an entity which would not be physical from those entities which are physical are seldom to never considered when discussing that possibility.   While it is quite possible that human (or perhaps bacterial) consciousness achieves a temporal and limited expression in the part of it entrapped in a physical body, its real nature is not bounded, that wouldn't, necessarily mean that it includes all possibilities or even capabilities.  Which is hardly a new idea.  Without it having physical form even those basic concepts derived from our experience of the physical universe may not apply.   

Of course all of that is not science, nor would I ever claim it was - I would vigorously reject the suggestion it could be.  Unlike so many in the sciences today I reject the idea that science can be removed from the act of physical observation and remain valid.  Which is why my good friend RMJ is right, it's essential to bring the philosophers back into the questions of consciousness, free will and the such.  When it comes to free will and other ideas of demonstrable importance in producing a democratic and decent world, I'm going to insist that the historians and others held to be mere mortals in the scientistic universe be given their say, as well. 

5. Reading Animal Minds And Assuming Things

Given his high position within the pseudo-skeptical group CSI(COP) it is incredible how much faith its Council Member, E. O. Wilson, has in the ability of his fellow scientists to read the minds of animals.  Ethologists have been pretending that they can know what animals are thinking for so many decades and selling their results to the human public that it is strange that the subjects of their study have been remarkably silent on what they are saying about them.   Considering that not a single ethologist has ever been an animal, thinking with the mind of an animal, based in an understanding of the world that is the product of living as an animal of the species they claim to understand, it is downright short sighted that there is massive faith among the educated public in what they have to say on the subject of how and what animals are thinking.

The problem with the claims of ethologists can be illustrated by looking at how hard it is for us to know the minds of our fellow human beings, even those with whom we share far, far more than we can with non-humans.

I would not claim to have a thorough understanding of what it would be like to be a fellow human being who lived a significantly different life than the one I have.  I have never been a black man living in Missouri around St. Louis, subject to such extra-legal rules that socieity and the TV trained minds of white people impose on black men on the basis that black men are black men.  The only way I can hope to have ANY understanding of what that experience is like is to listen to what black men living in this society have to say about their experience of living under racism.

Now, despite that large difference in our experience, I have a lot in common with black men in the St. Louis area.  Even more than that we are, for most purposes, almost biologically identical.  We are both American men living under the same federal government with a constitution that asserts we have the same rights, speaking a common language.   We likely have seen some of the same TV or at least have both been exposed to large amounts of similar media imparting the same cultural messages. We likely share some of the same assumptions about how the world is supposed to work, among those is that the police are not supposed to be able to act on an assumption that someone is guilty of a crime when they have no evidence that they are and that the police are required to impose the same system of laws to us, equally, not on the basis of appearance or where they happen to encounter us on the street.  I can know that we share that because I hear black men from the St. Louis area speaking their thoughts and talking about their experience, despite our differences.  In the absence of me ever hearing what they have to say about what it must be like to be a black man living under such things as the unspoken code of conduct imposed on black men to reduce their chances of being summarily executed in the absence of a crime would be, any chance that I could have anything like a full understanding of their inner experience is very small.

For people with whom I have less experience in common, women,  women of color, women of color who speak another language, live in another country, with different cultures, religious environments, radically different assumptions about laws and customs and personal freedom and autonomy, if I don't hear what they have to say about their inner lives, their thoughts, their experience of what it is like to think with their minds, there is no chance I will have any real understanding of what their experience is.   And, perhaps most relevant to my point, I would have no right to assume I understood anything about that without their confirmation.   No one would have any reason to believe I could speak for them with any reliability, they would have an intellectual obligation to be skeptical of whatever I had to say on the lives of those people.

Yet educated people are supposed to believe human beings can have precise and detailed understanding of the unseen,  unexpressed minds of animals with whom we share far, far less than we do even those human beings whose testimony of that inner life is available to us in our own language or, somewhat less ideally, translated into it**.

Yet, when it is a scientist who makes claims about that, it is held to be the duty of an educated person to take that on faith, ignoring the long history of the failures of the effort, the variable results and the real impossibility of their methods producing results of the reliability that should be achieved before calling something "science".  Instead of the requirements of enhanced reliability that should be required to be taken as science, in this area it is the word "science" which sells the unreliable claims.


Wilson stakes a large part of his claims about the scientific disposal of consciousness, and so free will, on claims about how animals now and in the past think.  In expressing the prospects of sciences ability to do what he wants it to he says:

There are several reasons for optimism.  First, the increase in brain size leading up from the habiline prehumans to Homo sapiens suggests that consciousness evolved in steps, similar to the way other complex biological systems developed - the eukaryotic cell, for example, or the animal eye, or colonial life in insects.

How those "things" are alike is the first question I would ask Wilson to explain. I'd ask that with the firm conviction that he could not do so except by the most far fetched of conceits and metaphors based in an unfounded assumption that, for example, the development of human consciousness had anything to do with colonial life in insects.  If, as he clearly does, he believes that consciousness evolved in the human brain, he would have to believe that ants don't share that consciousness.   It is just sloppy thinking to assert that conclusions about consciousness which he considers the product of the human line of evolution, well after our line diverged from those with which we share eyes, could reliably be made by analogy with the theoretical evolution of the eye (in itself hardly a solved riddle).   But it is sloppy thinking of the kind which pervades Wilson's field and, in fact, this entire quest.

He continues to go out on that already over-long limb.

It should then be possible to track the steps leading to human consciousness through studies of animal species that have come partway to the human level.

If Wilson means through the supposed studies of animal minds, now, which deserve to be treated with the utmost skepticism, then even that claim is already enormously problematic on that ground.  Since he is making an evolutionary argument, he compounds that problem by a rather enormous factor.  He proposes to study the minds of the lines of extinct animals over many millions of years in the past, the assertion that you can say anything reliable about those is absurd.   In a rather incredible passage he mixes so many species of animals together in a soup of assumptions and wild claims that it is breathtaking how far fetched his claims purported to be scientific are.

The mouse has been useful in early brain-mapping research and will continue to be productive.  This species has considerable technical advantages, including convenient laboratory rearing (for a mammal) and a strong supporting foundation of prior genetic and neuroscientific research.  A closer approach to the actual sequence can be made, however, by studying humanities closest phylogenetic relatives among primates, from lemurs and galagos at the more primitive end.  The comparison would reveal which neural circuits and activities were attained by non-human species, when they are attained by them, and in what sequence.  That data would help us determine which neurobiological traits are uniquely human.

Just to take the first possible problem with Wilson's vast and unwarranted practice of making assumptions and drawing analogies to the minds of mice and "human consciousness" there is no reason to believe that the connections are sufficently strong to make those conclusions.  Since Wilson demands that consciousness and minds are physical phenomena, it is reasonable to look at what is known about the similarities and dissimilarities in the physiology of mice and human beings when you investigate the founding assumption of that belief.

There is recent research calling into question the long held assumption that you could use mice as a stand in for human beings in studying observable physical phenomena.

Murine models have been extensively used in recent decades to identify and test drug candidates for subsequent human trials (). However, few of these human trials have shown success (). The success rate is even worse for those trials in the field of inflammation, a condition present in many human diseases. To date, there have been nearly 150 clinical trials testing candidate agents intended to block the inflammatory response in critically ill patients, and every one of these trials failed (). Despite commentaries that question the merit of an overreliance of animal systems to model human immunology (), in the absence of systematic evidence, investigators and public regulators assume that results from animal research reflect human disease. To date, there have been no studies to systematically evaluate, on a molecular basis, how well the murine clinical models mimic human inflammatory diseases in patients.

... In this article, we report on a systematic comparison of the genomic response between human inflammatory diseases and murine models. First, we compared the correlations of gene expression changes with trauma, burns, and endotoxemia between human subjects and corresponding mouse models. Second, we characterized and compared the temporal gene response patterns seen in these human conditions and models. Third, we also identified the major signaling pathways significantly regulated in the inflammatory response to human injuries and compared them with the human in vivo endotoxemia model and three murine models. Fourth, we sought and evaluated representative patient and murine studies of several additional acute inflammatory diseases. These results show that the genomic responses to different acute inflammatory stresses are highly similar in humans, but these responses are not reproduced in the current mouse models. New approaches need be explored to improve the ways that human diseases are studied.

If those assumptions about the relevance of mice to human physiology were never founded in evidence and when they are tested they are shown to be less than reliable, matched with a failure of the model in practical terms in human testing of drugs shown to be effective in mice, then the even more speculative belief that you could learn anything about human consciousness through making opportunistic assertions about the entirely unobservable minds of mice is presumably less worthy of belief.  Yet, through the habits and traditions of such science, the proven unreliability of using mice to answer such questions is ignored and is, apparently, unspeakable.

You can say the same thing about using other species as lab specimens, even those who are more closely related through only millions instead of tens or hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary change and alteration.  One of the most constant features of the Socio-bioloical and evolutionary psychological racket is to pretend that the members of other species alive today represent some more primitive model of what our shared ancestor was like when they, as well as us, are the product of an independent evolutionary history as long as ours is.  There is no reason to believe that any non-physical aspects of their lives are any more like that of our shared ancestor or what they or we have in common with that ancestor and each other.  You can't even reliably assume that in great detail for our human ancestors in the period before written language.

I will go so far as to say that the entire effort is so full of such problems that it is a massive intellectual con job not that far removed from a cable TV pet psychic.   It is a con which might be sold to a gullible public as having the reliability of science but which has the proven potential to have the most dire of social and political effects.  When science drifts that far into denying the basis of democracy, they have opened themselves up for questioning on other than merely scientific grounds.  Yet they will protest that they are merely doing science when it is clear they are not.

* It has been a huge mistake to allow people to call themselves scientists and their novel innovations in academic publication "science" without holding either to basic standards of rigor.   To allow "sciences" to arise in which any "review" is done by others with the same vested interest in their "science," has been a venue to give false legitimacy to some of the worst ideas that get to be called science.

The science published about things that can't be observed has turned out such unreliable results, been so open to shoddy and lax practices and dishonest manipulation, that the practice should not be allowed to be called "science".   Any "science" that starts with demanding the right to do massive corner cutting because of the difficulty of studying their proposed subject matter should not be allowed to go to the next step in earning the name.

I have become convinced that a lot of the skepticism of the public for real science of enormous importance is due to the discrediting of the brand name, "science" in the publicity given to unreliable and, frankly, wacky junk that gets to be called "science" by people who get to be called "scientists".   Lots of that "inexact science" is grown in the field that Wilson has worked in.

**  The, at times vicious, disagreement among anthropologists "interpreting" people who live in the same tiny ethnic, or large, groups of people, would indicate that their methods of collecting information and analyzing that information is hardly a science.   In a lot of cases their methods of both are governed by what school of anthropology and the social sciences they were trained in or adopted.  The results are frequently the obvious product, not of rigorous and dispassionate analysis of fact, but a desire to produce results that support the basic stands of their school of anthropology.  And it is certain that, if presented with the results of the anthropology, the people studied would likely disagree with large parts of it.

That is especially true in groups where anthropologists depend on a core of selected "informants", people within the group who have all of the biases and prejudices and personal disagreement, family and class connections, with other members of their community and group.  That kind of bias due to the professional relationship that anthropologists form with their "subjects" is wide spread and, to a large extent, inevitable in anthropology.

Yet those practices and their results are to be believed on the basis of anthropology being called a science, bringing it under the same umbrella with such sciences as chemistry and physics whose published work is based on the rigorous physical analysis of rather simple objects.  Anthropology can neither follow those standards of rigor nor produce any results that come anywhere near to matching the reliability of their holdings.

Though since it is called "science" antropology is supposed to enjoy the same regard as those hard sciences.   And anthropology has some access to what people express about their thoughts, something which ethologists will never have.  To call either more than "lore" is an intellectual fraud.   I think what ethologists have to say about the minds of animals is far less effective as a lens looking at the minds of animals and more effective as a mirror, reflecting the ethologists'  thinking.

Monday, September 1, 2014

4 The Limited Scope of Storytelling And The Dangers of Depending On It

Unfortunately, for my purposes, E. O. Wilson's article which I am looking at is not available to read online except by subscription.  While the article is so full of claims, assertions and assumptions that are ripe for questioning and criticism that I'd have to violate copy-rite laws to fully look at it, his premise can be effectively refuted by going over several of those.   I will jump ahead in Wilson's order to deal with his definition of the mind, which contains one of the more bizarre reductionist passages I think I've ever read on this topic.

The final reason for optimism is the human necessity for confabulation which offers more evidence of a material basis to consciousness.   Our minds consist of storytelling.  In each instant, a flood of information of information flows into our senses, more than the brain can process.  To augment the fraction of this information, we summon the stories of past events for context and meaning.  We compare the past and the present and apply the decisions that were made previously,  variously right or wrong.  Then we look forward, creating - not just recalling this time - multiple competing scenarios.  These are weighted against one another by the suppressing or intensifying effect imposed by aroused emotional centers.  A choice is made in the unconscious centers of the brain, recent studies tell us, several seconds before the decision arrives in the conscious part. 

I am rather astonished that any scientist could make the claim that "Our minds consist of storytelling" considering that the very basis of science and scientific method quite often consist of very detailed and exacting mental activity that is not narrative.   While biology, the description of the process of life does contain narrative description of events and, especially in evolutionary science since Darwin, of invented narratives in the lost past, science must include much more. For example, consider the importance to science of non-narrative description of structures and spaces.  Geometry is certainly not "storytelling".Mathematics can be considered "storytelling" only by imposing a self-interested conceit onto it.

Much of the description in science is decidedly not narrative in any sense and much more of it is not narrative in any honest way.  'And science doesn't comprehend all of human thought.   As a musician who has mostly played instrumental music without words, I would point out that your mind can go on for hour after hour of quite rigorous use, including memory and perception and observation, creating orders of sounds, "shaping" them without narrative content either being evoked from memory or read from a page or generated spontaneously.

Perhaps, given his profession in the purported study of behavior, Wilson's cutting out all but narrative content in our minds is understandable* to an extent.  But his claim that this "necessity for confabulation" "offers more evidence of a material basis to consciousness" makes his diminution of our minds look more like him being up to of his old habit of self-serving reductionist claims and scenarios.  It is a habit that permeates his article whose real motive is not to determine what the real nature of consciousness and free will are but to convince readers that those are material phenomena so to negate the problem those two ideas pose to his materialism.

It is one of the most remarkable things I've learned in reading the literature of atheism in the past twelve or so years how central the quest to support their ideology is and the position that ideological war has in the sciences,  leading to some of the worst science of the past hundred-fifty years. Science which has a remarkably short shelf life, considering the reason for science to exist is to produce ideas of enhanced reliability.  That is especially  true of the science that purported to deal with thought and behavior.

One of the biggest problems for Wilson's claims is of his own making. Storytelling, in any meaningful sense of the term, requires language.  If you are going to pin consciousness to storytelling, you have to conclude that only humans and a few of the higher apes who have been taught to use language are conscious. The effort to shoehorn consciousness into an evolutionary narrative becomes far more problematic in the course of Wilson's article due to his insistence on that self-serving definition.  I could bring up what Wilson would propose the precursors of consciousness could be in the period before language capable of sustaining narrative existed in the animal kingdom and how those figured into scenarios of natural selection.   In order to make claims about consciousness being a product of the evolution of the human brain, he removes it from virtually all of evolved beings and he ignores that gorillas trained in speech have been shown to be capable of narration, not to mention conscious thought.  How the clear consciousness and thought of the famous African parrot Alex would fit into his storytelling of consciousness is not apparent.

Wilson seems to forget that his script for how thought happens is only one of many possible ones and that it is based on little to no actual science but is a cut and paste job, putting snippets of (quite often dodgy) experimental reports together with speculations, wild and tame and quite often entirely ideological, not to arrive wherever those will go but aimed at producing a particular result.  As with Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, the goal is predetermined and that goal shapes the narrative instead of the events of the narrative happening in a real sequence.

And, for Wilson, that creation of a scenario is science, it is what science is for him.  But, as he is the one who early on said that the human brain was the most complex structure in the known universe, that it would be largely unknown, today,  his description is so inadequate as to likely lead away from clarity instead of to it.  That it is self serving for his materialism is obvious, that it is inadequate to describe something of that complexity and ineffability is also obvious.  That it is an ideologically imposed story is practically announced in his program of action for his fellow neuroscientists "set on discovering the physical basis of consciousness".   There is every reason to reject it as vastly inadequate due to  what can safety be presumed to be unknown about our complex brains and the very real possibility that consciousness is not merely the product of brains or even an emergent phenomenon of them.   The insistence that that is true is not based in science but in materialist ideology and atheist faith.

It should never be forgotten that it is an essential part of the process of storytelling that you must pick and choose what you include, even when you are trying to give an accurate idea of real and rigorously observed events in real life.  You cannot reproduce all of a reality in a story.  It is edited of necessity and the temptation to edit for purposes other than to arrive at what actually happened is always a component of storytelling.


His last sentence in that passage would, I expect, evoke the materialist-atheist use of the late Benjamin Libet's work to attack the idea of free will, which I would guess is the interpretation of that experiment you will find at the top of a google search due to its popularity among atheists.  However, it is certainly not the only interpretation of that work and it makes claims about it, often through an incomplete description of the experiment and inserting claims about it that Libet not only never made but rejected.  Since the materialist use of it to deny free will hinges on the timing and sequence of "events" in the experiment and the matter of when the articulation of intent happens, it looks to me rather odd that so little is discussed about the time it takes to articulate perception and experiences** or even to arrive at an understanding of them.    We articulate those retrospectively, describing acts which have already happened and that doesn't happen automatically.  Considering that we come to an articulable understanding of things only after they have been perceived through sight, hearing and other senses, it is clear that the articulated speech is derived from mental activity that is not yet expressible in words.  I would suggest that is also an impediment to Wilson's claims about the position of storytelling in our consciousness.  As the text at the link points out, John Locke said that "free" was a description of the human mind, which consists of far more than just the will.

The idea that we can understand the entirety of something but breaking it into component parts which might be studied in isolation can yield some parts of understanding the whole, especially when the whole is not terribly complex.  When it is as complex as the body of an organism, that approach has far more limited success (look at the notably spotty success of nutrition science).  When it is an entire, living, being, including a mind, the success has proven to be minimal, the proposed successes often actual and cataclysmic failures.  I think that the fecund production of bad science demonstrated by all of the sciences that propose to deal with minds is a direct result of that failure of reductionism as a program to learn about the mind.

But I also think it is due, in large part, to the goal of so many of those engaged in it, to support their ideological materialism.   As the march of folly in the behavioral sciences has progressed, the predominance of that ideological promotion has been more durable than the science that progresses into the bone yard of discontinued science at a steadily increasing pace.  Eventually, one would hope, the wider culture in which magazines for the general public are edited and published would begin to notice that history which continually repeats itself.  But that hasn't happened, either.

Liberals have ample reason to look critically at the history of materialism in politics and societies, especially such things as its inevitable damage to the concept of freedom of thought, which has had a demonstrable tendency to lead to damage of freedom in real life.   While atheists can point to the harmlessness of atheist professors who would hardly be roused to violence or even roused from their professorial otiosity to get into a real argument, that has not been the result of the materialist attack on the freedom and dignity of human beings, on our rights, equally held.  The ideologically motivated attack on the belief in freedom is a serious matter, the attack on the belief in the metaphysical aspects on which democracy and even a decent society are absolutely dependent is a serious matter, the discussion of which will upset materialists, atheists, and the professorial comity that is as corrupt as that on display in the United States Senate during some of their more emetic hearings.

If materialists are right then liberalism is wrong.  It can't be right.  And that makes all the difference in reality.

*  But still a  bizarre thing for a scientist to say.   I remember an argument over Wilson's Sociobiology I had with a member of my family, majoring in biological topics in the late 1970s. He believed he had clinched the argument in favor of biological determinism a la Wilson by saying,  "But he has the equations to back him up".   I don't remember if I used the mathematical content of past, overturned science in responding to him or if I used the fact that Wilson's narratives were, frequently, self-serving acts of reification or that his claims that the "behaviors" he identified in the most distantly related of animals were, in fact the same "behaviors" with no evidence, whatsoever.  Reification and conflation are the original sins of the sciences derived from psychology and which deal with behavior and thought.  There has been no salvation for the field by those sciences and there is no reason to believe that the neuroscience or cognitive sciences in which those vices flourish, rampantly, will produce that redemption.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trying To Think Like A Bacterium Is Less Problematic Than Saying They Are Not Conscious

Life under the microscope
I wonder how those critters cope,
One minute you're flippin' your flagella,
The next you're devoured by a vorticella,
From their size I must look as big as a whale
I don't think I'd like life at their scale
Ignorance is bliss but the fact remains,
They're too tiny to have brains

John Acorn "The Nature Nut"

Someone objected to me using the phototaxis in bacteria as a possible specimen of behavior indicating consciousness due to the fact that they don't have brains.

Well, I don't know.  I hadn't thought of it until reading that objection but  the fact is those bacteria that alter the movement of their flagella are responding to light in order to move towards it,  clearly reacting in an intentional manner to definite external stimulation.  There is something happening "in" the bacteria.  You would have to explain that on some other basis than consciousness of their environment. You have an even bigger problem dismissing observable behavior in the act of one-celled animals consuming others that they find in their environment as being possible with a lack of consciousness.

You merely point out that the thing "in" the bacteria that you hold would needed for consciousness - AND ACCORDING TO WILSON'S ARTICLE THE "THING" HE PROPOSES WAS THE PHYSICAL LOCUS OF THE "EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS" and so an essential component of it, isn't there.

Perhaps this shows in a manner far more concrete than the materialists have produced that you don't need a brain for consciousness to exist and, if you can't locate a physical locus of bacterial consciousness, in the one and only cell you'd need to find it in, that consciousness isn't the product of the physical body.  

Unfortunately, we can't ask bacteria what they think about that idea anymore than we can ask a tunicate or a  bonobo or our Homo habilis ancestors about their experience of consciousness, either.  Though we can pretend that we can know that if we want to push an agenda outside of rigorous scientific practice.

Note:  Yeah, I broke Sabbath by going back to fiddle with  the third part of this series when I unintentionally published it instead of pressing the "Save" button.  You'll notice I hadn't even come up with a title yet.  Obviously it needs more work but I'll leave that up.  

I noticed I'd already done that when I came back to work on this, which I'd intended to post Tuesday.   As penance I'll post it now and I'll have to work harder to write the rest of this series to post daily

3, Materialism Means Pretending You Know Things Are True That Materialism Makes Impossible

I have been thinking really hard about E.O. Wilson's article, trying to figure out how, at every turn, his rigid insistence on materialism leads him to make entirely unfounded and insisted on assumptions that he already knows the nature of consciousness and free will and that those, unsurprisingly, are held to be in line with his ultimate framing of materialism.   At one point he almost seems to admit that his practice is not based in scientific methods but it doesn't even last two sentences.

You have to have faith to be a neuroscientist.  We don't know where consciousness and free will may be hidden --- assuming they even exist as integral processes and entities. 

What neuroscientists don't know, what they must take on faith,  is much more than that, beginning with not even really understanding that the problem they propose to solve with science could well never be treatable with science.   The history of science making thought the subject of its inquiry has shown, over and over again, the ability of scientists to make claims of knowledge which are widely accepted on the basis of the repute of science, scientists and the academic establishment, only to have those exposed as delusions when not outright deceptions.  I would guess that no other area called science has produced more dramatic examples of that kind of thing and I believe it is because what they propose to study can't be directly observed or reliably observed indirectly.   Whenever you supposedly use the methods of science to study things that can't be observed, you can sell the results to a gullible public as science for a long time but the history of such science is that it falls and crashes rather dramatically.   In these questions of consciousness, including free will, the danger of that scenario recurring, repeatedly, is even more reasonable to expect.

If consciousness or free will were not material entities, they would  not be susceptible to science or even reliably assumed to be subject to causation, which is only known through the consideration of the physical universe. I certainly think that since the human conception of causation is known through consciousness, which must precede the concept of causation,  as indeed everything of the external world which can be articulated does, that there is good reason to believe that instead of the conscious mind being the result of causes, at its most basic level, that causation is the product of the mind addressing its external world, while not, itself, necessarily being subject to causation.

The powerful sway that materialism has on Wilson is demonstrated by his willingness to assert the possibility that  consciousness and free will may not, "even exist as integral processes and entities".  I would point out that viewing consciousness and free will as "integral processes" presumes we can safely assume they conform to the behavior of entities in the physical universe when we have no reason to believe that.  But for scientists or any other human beings who are capable of articulating thought to entertain the notion that consciousness is not an entity is clearly not thinking clearly.  It is one of the more persistent delusions among atheists that they are not conscious as they are consciously debunking the idea of consciousness.  The surprising frequency and enthusiasm for that clearly irrational and unaware claim, disproved by its own articulation,  leads me to conclude that materialism, atheism, is likely to produce that particular form of mental pathology.   I'm unaware of any person who believes in God who denies that they are using what they must use to think and talk about God, or to talk about anything.


As I've already mentioned, consciousness may be of  a nature that will entirely escape the nets and method of science.   Considering what the experience of consciousness is, that, at its most basic level, it is not known to be a material substance or the byproduct of chemistry and that, by definition free will could not be both free and subject to material causation because it would cease to be free if it were, neither of them can comfortably co-exist with materialism.   Materialist monists have dealt with that inconvenient truth by a number of means:

-  Denying that either could exist because they are untreatable with science, the methods of doing that, unfortuantely, contain assumptions that, as also mentioned before in this series, negate the meaning of all mental activity, including that of science, thus impeaching its results.

- Redefining the terms "consciousness" and "free will" in order to turn them into something they can pretend that must be a result of chemistry.  In so doing they don't address what every articulate person experiences as their own consciousness and their ability to come up with ideas on the basis of their own thinking.*  Daniel Dennett is one of the foremost academic practitioners of that bait and switch.

-  Accusing people who refuse to deny the reality of their conscious experience and the clearly manifest importance of free will of delusion, superstition, irrationality and, in the most common practices of atheist polemics.

Because this last one is the easiest, least intellectually taxing of the rejections of what consciousness and free will are held to be, it is important to admit that this most common of materialist practices comes down to is a jr high level of social coercion due to a desire to avoid being labeled as being infected with cooties.  I believe that even within rather high levels of academia, this materialist orthodoxy is enforced by just such methods.   Wilson is more subtle than your average professional skeptic or blog atheist but his article is subtly seasoned with that familiar ingredient that permeates so much of even today's scientific literature.

As already mentioned,  if someone insists on pressing the necessary conclusions of their claims, they would have to accept the inconvenient result for their own academic product, the removal of the qualities of significance or even truth from it, but that is seldom pointed out to them.  It should be pressed whenever these claims are made.


Considering that Wilson, earlier in his article, said that the human brain is the must complex entity in the known universe, it is rather stunning for him to claim the level of progress for its study that he has in this article.  Most of those claims are based in the faith put into brain imaging and, to a lesser extent, dissecting as a means of bypassing the more basic difficulties in even defining terms.

The basic goal of activity mapping is to connect all of the processes of thought - rational and emotional; conscious, pre-conscious, and unconscious;  held still and moving through time - to a physical base.

Which generally means getting subjects who can be convinced to undergo imaging to say something within the set range of responses as to what the researchers want them to say was happening as conscious experience while the desired areas of the brain light up.  Ultimately to come up with a statistical result they can convince a reviewed journal to publish.  I'll insert, reviewed by other researchers who follow the same procedures and who have a real interest in not questioning those.

I would like to know how they propose to do that when the "activity" is "pre-conscious, and unconscious," whatever those two terms mean.  How could they distinguish such vaguely definable concepts and their variable components without the report of the subjects**.  Not to mention that all of this confronts the unreliability of the indirect "observation" already mentioned, the vagueness of terms, the variability in words people use to describe their conscious experience, the variable reliability in people reporting their conscious experience - even when they have no desire to shade that, the necessity of researchers to radically narrow the possible responses to questions and the limits of the questions considered and items included in the experiments, themselves.  The subject who reports their experience is the ultimate editor of that material, there is no possibility of reporting on human experience without that filter, there isn't even that access to the experience of animals who can't report their ideas about their experience.  Though science regularly ignores that glaring and relevant fact.  I'll go into that a bit more.

Anyone who reads his article in Harpers should consider how much you have to overlook in order to accept what he says in it.   And I'm not talking about merely things such as the real possibility that the relationship of fMRI images to alleged mental states is a mere artifact of the methodology chosen by the researchers mixed with their control of the vocabulary the people they use as subjects are forced to choose from in reporting their experience.  Peoples' reports of even their quantifiable behavior is known to be unreliable and that is something they could, actually, report accurately.  And, notice in the example of people reporting numbers of sex partners that are a mathematical impossiblity, that the results are reported by researchers who know the reports cannot be true and widely accepted and cited even by scientists who should certainly know better.

There is every reason to believe that peoples' reports of their internal, undefined and unobservable experience is even less reliable.  And there is no reason to believe that scientists desiring to report those reports will be any more rigorous or honest in their professional behavior than those who report and use the irrational reports mentioned above.

And everything we can know about the experience of consciousness is entirely dependent on the reports of those who experience it.  Every person is the one and only possible expert on what their internal, conscious experience is.  Any discrepancy between their reports and external reality merely shows that they can either be mistaken or that their reporting may be less than accurate but no one can tell them that they didn't experience what they experienced.  

Dogmatic materialists are always railing against people who choose to believe their experience when it directly contradicts materialist theory or when that experience is inconveniently damaging to it.  Yet they are the first to claim the absolute reliability of people reporting their experience when the results support their desired ends.   In order for them to try to force compliance with their materialist faith, they are reduced to claiming people who show no unusual level of irrationality in their conduct of expression must be the victims of a pathological level of delusion and self-deception.  In few other areas of life is it as possible to observe the self-appointed materialists and rationalists fundamentalism as when they confront consciousness and such questions as free will.  You can see that in history.

I sometimes wish that I had my grandparents longer, long enough for me to ask them things like what they thought when they first heard of Freud and his theories which were new when they were young adults.   I am curious to know what rational, educated people, with no desire to be up to date and in line with the thinking of the smart set made of his insane assertions about their lives and their thoughts.  We know what those who wanted to believe in his, now debunked, theories believed about them, though why their reputations isn't as damaged by buying that as those who were devoted to the likes of Aimee Semple McPherson is worth considering.  I think that is more a matter of social position of those who accepted the "science".  Clearly, with Freud's thinking, it wasn't because his ideas were sounder, they weren't, many of them had absolutely no basis for believing them to be true even as they were accepted as science.   That Wilson briefly skates over the problem as he continues in the same paragraph, only shows how much he insists you buy because it promotes his faith.

... It won't come easy.  Bite into a lemon, fall into bed, recall a departed friend, watch the sun sink beyond the western sea.  Each episode comprises mass neuronal activity so elaborate we cannot even conceive of it, much less write it down as a repertory of firing cells.

Reread that and ask yourself, if, as Wilson admits, the complexity of the brain is matched with the further difficulties that even he admits, how he is so confident that each of those experiences "comprises mass neuronal activity so elaborate we cannot even conceive of it".  The fact is that he begins with an insistence that consciousness be a physical process when there is no evidence that is what it is.

Even materialists, don't really believe their conscious experience conforms to the absolutely inescapable requirements of their own materialism.  If they did they would have to conclude that their own thinking was merely chemistry working itself out and that other ideas were merely the result of other chemical components making slightly different proteins and neuronal connections.  But they don't, they insist that their ideas have value as the truth, which is fundamentally inconsistent with materialism.   Wilson's article as persuasion or even just as information is a contradiction of his own fundamental foundations and his insisted on framing. Only, as is so often the case, they cut themselves exemptions from their own claimed reality.

*  I would propose that the most important aspect of whatever it is we call free will is its role in politics and social interactions.  The assumptions of free will as real and a positive good and the denial of either its existence or that we are bound to respect people's exercise of their free will - subject to restraints where those impinge on others ability to reasonably exercise their freedom -  make among the most dramatic of real differences in real life that we can see.

Those who deny the reality of free will and consciousness as THE essential aspect of human beings, who, at bottom hold that people are essentially mere objects, flasks of chemical reaction,  remove any restraints on those who desire to treat them as exploitable objects which can be disposed of when they are not useful or when their abuse and deaths are so desired.  Molecules  destroying each other, robbing each other of atoms and ions aren't held to be morally responsible.  Materialist monism is a complete negation of the reality of morality or other entities that exist entirely within our minds.

Since Wilson is a biologist,  there is nothing within natural selection that means you are morally bound to reproduce or even allow another generation of your species to be born.  Materialism could not accuse someone who tried to kill off the entire human species of having done something they shouldn't.   Reproduction isn't a moral requirement of natural selection, which is amoral. Though, from the start even its most orthodox proponents expressed both an imperative for reproduction and the attempt to defeat and kill competitors into a sort of moral obligation.  You can read that in Charles Darwin, certainly in Haeckel, Galton and virtually all other proponents of his theory up till the post-war period and even some today.

That is the great unmentionable lesson of the atheist regimes that have existed in history from the later 18th century up till today.  As I have mentioned a number of times, governments professing Christianity or other religions that forbid that kind of violation of rights and life must violate their stated intellectual and moral holdings to commit evil acts.  If they acted consistently with the teachings of Jesus, they would not commit those kinds of evil.  Though history shows the barrier to evil that claiming to believe that Jesus was divine is not always a guarantee of even a lesser level of evil behavior.

But materialism doesn't even contain that barrier to enslaving and murdering one person or tens if not hundreds of millions of people.  It is one of the unspeakable truths of contemporary and modern orthodoxy to admit that lesson and that it is an entirely predictable, eventual result of the adoption of materialist monism, and materialism under all of its various aliases, always and inevitably,  rigidly and inescapably devolve into a monism. Which is hardly surprising, considering the determinism that is an essential component of materialism.   For that reason, with that history, I have concluded that materialism is one of the most dangerous faiths people have ever devised.

**  Ironically, the work of such scientist heritics as Dean Radin and Daryl Bem might indicate there is something that might be called "preconsciousness" in their much replicated experiments showing an "unconscious"physiological response in an entirely isolated receiver when another person is subjected to a randomly chosen stimulus.  Not only while the stimulus occurs but, quite surprisingly, in a highly statistically significant period before the stimulus is randomly chosen by computer.  I would submit that this can't be considered to match Wilson's use of the terms.  I suspect that is not true even on the level of Wilson accepting that Radin's and Bem's results are valid though they are far more reliably demonstrated than what he bases his article on.  He and the materialist establishment reject their rigorously conducted experiments on the basis of their materialism.