[ExI] Weighing the Soul

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Sat Sep 22 19:36:05 UTC 2018

Brent Allsop wrote:

> Some people, (i.e. mormons at Brigham Young University for example)
> assume a soul has some weight.  They weigh people, animals and bugs, and
> try to see if their is a decrease in weight, when they die (hopping to
> measure when a "soul" with physical weight leaves the body).  You're not
> proposing this, right?

Not really. I do not think that a soul can leave the body any more than a
printed word can leave the page it is printed on. Plus the synaptic links
that trace out the soul are frangible and likely to be one of the first
things that decays after death. It might be possible to copy the soul to a
different substrate however.

In regards to the mormons of BYU, if they ever get to the point where they
can measure the approximately 66 nanograms of mass that a 100 kg human
body loses when cooling from body temperature to room temperature after
death then that would be huge technological achievement. But that still
probably will not be sensitive enough to literally weigh the soul
especially in the background of an intact body.

> I get so frustrated with people that make claims like: "a bit of
> information is a real physical thing" or even worse when people say,
> fundamentally, all matter is just bits. A bit, is just some random
> physical thing or state, with a required interpretation mechanism, so you
> can get the 1, from any arbitrary different physical thing.

Yes any arbitrary "thing" with more than a single state. But my point is
there must be some thing. A bit of information cannot exist without some
physical thing to embody it. One and zero are just arbitrary symbols for
the underlying states. It is the underlying states that are the actual bit
and thus physical.

> In other
> words, a bit is just abstracted away from the physics, by a required
> interpretation mechanism.

To have a bit you need at least one thing with at least two states. To
give that bit meaning, you need at least two things. The observer and the
observed. The observer does not have to be an intelligent agent. It merely
has to be another thing with more than one state that can change its state
in response to the state of the first thing. In this regard, a soccer ball
observes your foot when you kick it. And the meaning of the signal is
simply momentum. Thus the soccer ball interprets and "understands" your
foot despite being an inanimate object.

> Souls, or minds, are made of physical stuff
> (qualia), that is not
> abstracted away from the physics.  Consciousness runs directly on the
> qualitative nature of physics - no abstracts.  In other words, to get a
> "1"
> from any physics, you need to interpret the particular set of physics, as
> a "1".  But redness, is just pure physics - no interpretation required.

Every particle in the universe interprets every other particle it
interacts with. Interpretation itself is a physical act. Your ribosomes
literally interpret the genetic code in your messenger RNA to synthesize
the proteins you need for survival. No brain is required for
interpretation of information at the level of bits. A brain however does
help with interpreting complex patterns of information.

Redness is the internal symbol your brain uses to represent a particular
frequency band of electromagnetic radiation that it understands because
the way your retina is set up. Without appropriate technology, your brain
cannot interpret radio waves. So radio waves don't have a color because
your brain does not maintain symbols for what it doesn't understand.

But since both symbols and interpretation are physical, you are right. It
is just pure physics. Or it is just pure information. It depends on where
you stand on chicken or egg type problems.

> In other words, can we not know, more surely that we know "I think
> therefor I am" what the physical quality of our redness is like.
> Since minds are not abstracted away form the physics, like 1s and 0s are,
> then the physical nature of our consciousness, can not be in some abstract
>  simulation.

I am not entirely certain about that one way or the other. What I can say
is that it is if our consciousness is physical, then everything is, and if
our consciousness is abstract, then everything is.

> Can we not know this more surely than we know anything.  I
> experience the physical nature of redness, therefor I can not doubt it's
> fundamental, basement level, physical nature, right?

Right, unless you doubt that physical nature itself is fundamental. But
then again a chicken egg and a chicken are the same fundamental thing
expressing different properties at different times. So maybe the
distinction itself is without difference.

Stuart LaForge

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