[ExI] Molecular Materialism

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Mon Dec 30 09:36:28 UTC 2019

Quoting Brent Allsop:

> Message: 10
> Date: Sun, 29 Dec 2019 12:46:29 -0700
> From: Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com>
> To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Subject: Re: [ExI] Molecular Materialism
> Message-ID:
> 	<CAK7-onsi1AmKNp0v0nrW2+=HsJJmMfw_qpCAberu_bk3_4RckQ at mail.gmail.com>
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> John Said:
> ?No theory of qualia is testable.?

That is only true if you define quales to be undetectable. Molecular  
materialism contends that qualia are actual physical properties of  
molecules. As such, the theory is testable. For example, if glutamate  
were the redness quale, then glutamate levels in the brain should  
correlate with exposure to the color red.

I don't think that qualia are literal molecules, so I would expect  
negative results, but that does not change the fact that the assertion  
of molecular materialism itself is experimentally testable, and  
therefore sorely in need of testing. Unless and until such an  
experiment is performed, these endless debates about qualia are all  
just hand-waving contests, and largely unproductive.

> Stuart LaForge pointed out some great new ways to empirically test for
> Molecular Materialism.
> Will responded to some of the other stuff Stuart was saying with:
> determining what wavelengths can be seen is not the same as determining
> what qualia are experienced.
> I agree with Will here.  I think it is incorrect to assume that glutamate
> or redness is always affiliated with red light.  It is more likely that
> whatever is most important to that particular species will be represented
> with glutamate/redness.  We need to be able to pick the strawberries from
> the green leaves.  Since the strawberries are most important to us, and
> since the ripe ones are the ones that reflect red light, that is why our
> brain chooses to highlight the important ripe ones with glutamate redness.
> For example, I believe bees can see wavelengths we can?t, which are the
> wavelengths most likely to be reflected by flowers containing the most
> nectar.  It is likely that evolution used glutamate redness to represent
> these different raveling?s of light to highlight what is important to the
> bees.

Don't back-pedal on me here, Brent. If "redness" is not correlated  
with red light, then "redness" is a misnomer. If glutamate is  
associated with red strawberries in humans and the ultraviolet  
signature of flowers burgeoning with nectar in honeybees, then the  
glutamate molecule cannot be said to have the redness quale as a  
property. Instead, the best one could say is that glutamate is a  
component of some systems that have the redness quale as a property in  
the context of red light and yet others that have the "yummy flower"  
quale as property in the context of ultraviolet light. That would mean  
that qualia are mental constructs instead of physical properties.

You would then be forced to admit you have an abstract soul  
constructed of math and numbers, poor thing. But, take heart for so do  
the honeybees, and you have it so much better than they do.

> Bat?s use echolocation instead of light.  Their echolocation can detect
> objects in the air.  I?d predict that a bat?s brain uses the same
> redness/glutamate to highlight whatever echolocated data was is important
> to the bat.

Yes. Now you get it, glutamate is a symbol whose meaning is purely  
subjective. Congratulations, you are finally qualia blind. :-)

Stuart LaForge

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