information mind matter
On today's show we discuss the research of computer engineer Bernardo Kastrup, a man who has devoted a significant amount of his professional life to developing a robust and comprehensive critique of the materialist worldview. He is the author of numerous books, including The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality, and Why Materialism is Baloney, as well as many articles. Today we'll be discussing one of his latest articles, "Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind".

For centuries the extreme success of the physical sciences have lent credibility the materialist worldview. However, the success of the scientific enterprise as a whole continues to reveal a world of startling intelligence that cannot be explained by the mere accidents of matter but seem plausible only in the light of an intelligent mind. As Kastrup writes, "This mental universe is what physics is leading us to." We'll be discussing this mental universe, the problems of materialism and more today, on MindMatters.

Running Time: 01:04:17

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: So, we've got an article up on written by Bernardo Kastrup. He's a computer engineering dude from Eindhoven University of Technology, and he's written several books, he's got a new that just came out this week. It's called The Idea of the World. I haven't read it yet, I think Corey's been reading it. I'm going to read it soon. But the article itself deals with a couple ideas that we'll get to in this book. It is specifically on what is called "Information Realism" and why Kastrup says physics is pointing inexorably to mind.

So we're just going to take a look at this article and comment on it and see where the discussion takes us because there are some really interesting things in here. I don't know if I agree with it 100%, but I like the direction it's going in. So we're going to read through it.

Kastrup starts out by writing this:

"In his 2014 book, Our Mathematical Universe, physicist Max Tegmark boldly claims that "protons, atoms, molecules, cells and stars are all redundant "baggage." Only the mathematical apparatus used to describe the behavior of matter is supposedly real, not matter itself. For Tegmark, the universe is a set of abstract entities with relations between them, which can be described in a baggage-independent way, that is, without matter. He attributes existence solely to descriptions, while incongruously denying the very thing that is described in the first place. Matter is done away with and only information itself is taken to be ultimately real."

So, let's stop there for a second and talk about that. So, what Tegmark and Kastrup are talking about gets into philosophy, the question of what is real? What are the units of things, or if not units, what is reality, essentially. Historically and today, there are several options on the market. You can break them down into materialism - the only things that are real are the things we classify as matter. Within materialism, you've got old-school materialism when matter was seen as this persistent, hard, stuff, these physical, solid atoms, out of which more large-scale experiences of matter are made. Then of course with the advancements of science in the past 200 years, have come to the conclusion that there is no solid matter. It's actually energy and fields. Then you get to the quantum level and what's going on there. I guess, you could call that a modern materialism, everything is energy.

In contrast to the materialism, you've got the idealism, which is that there is no such thing as matter and all there is, is mind. And matter is an illusion in one variety of idealism, an illusion produced by the mind. So all we have are minds perceiving other minds, or mind perceiving itself, and the way in which those minds perceive the matter of mind is as the thing we call as matter, which would go down to what we perceive and categorize as energy.

But there's this other option on the market now. In the past maybe 50 to 60 years - I can't remember when this idea first got proposed - but the idea that, at the basis of things, it's not just energy, it's actually information. Any kind of specific thing going on in the world, any movement or interaction between particles, can be looked at and described in terms of information. One of the simplest ways of describing information in this sense, the way I think about is, comes from Claude Shannon who developed information theory but developments after him, too, information as the reduction of uncertainty.

The way to picture this, like I've done in previous shows, is that you have a set of all possibilities, and you can think about this in terms of anything, whether it's the possible words and order of words in order to write a paragraph, whether it's the possible locations and states of an atom, whether it's the possible movements of your arm, you've got a whole range of possible movements, and then once you've collapsed those possibilities into a single one, you've made a selection. You've reduced that uncertainty into a relative certainty. That is one way of describing information because when you have a word, it is the reduction of an uncertain string of randomness, maybe letters, into something that is certain.

You can make a comparison between the reduction of uncertainty and the reduction of possibilities into actuality. In that way, we get specific forms. A specific shape is a form of information because it's that one shape as opposed to all possible shapes. You see that all the way down to quantum phenomena where you have a probability function. You have the possible locations of a particle, for instance, and through measurement that collapses into one position. But, before that it was a probability. You didn't know exactly where it was. It was a potential but that potential reduced into an actuality. So you could describe that as information as well. "These are the precise numbers and measurements that we can use to characterize this mini-system that we're looking at." You can apply that to pretty much anything. For the movement of an atom, it's moving in this direction, at this speed, for this amount of time, across this amount of space. It's doing that and it's not doing all the other possibilities. It's a very specific thing. Then, you have things interacting with each other in specific ways.

Going into another topic we've talked about, DNA and evolution...

Corey: Mm hmm.

Harrison: ... when you look at information in that sense, you've got all this DNA which is information. It's a code. It's information because it's specified. It's saying, "This specific sequence as opposed to all other possible sequences". It's a reduction of uncertainty of all possible sequences to a specific sequence that is functional.

So, an information realist is basically, according to Kastrup and Tegmark, they say that the only real thing is the information. It's the mathematics, the measurements and the things behind the things that we measure and look at. Only that is real, that the actual things in themselves that are - well he wouldn't say this but - embodying that information, embodying those principles and those formulae, and those features, I guess you could call them charge, and spin, whatever features are within that level - that the information itself that's the only real thing. This more a more radical or extreme version of things I've read in the past, where they're arguing that information may not be the only thing, but it's actually fundamental. You couldn't have atoms with properties and subatomic particles with properties and specific features, without an underlying information. Basically, the "it", which is the particle or the atom, comes from the "bit", the information. The information describes the system, and the system conforms to those possibilities. So, Tegmark is saying, "No, all you need is the mathematical description".

So in SOTT we've got this comment on there with a quote from Robin Collingwood's book Speculum Mentis which we've discussed in the show before, on this fallacy of abstraction. So, Collingwood wrote:

"For it must be borne in mind that the abstract concept is nothing but the abstract structure of the sensible world, and therefore if the concept alone is real the world whose structure it is will be mere appearance and not reality, and therefore the world will be a class whose members are not real.

Mathematics is nothing but the assertion of the abstract concept, and it can give us no account of the presuppositions of this assertion. Mathematical logic is only the shadow of science itself. It is the truth, but the truth about nothing: It is the description of the structure of a null class. Hence, though the hypotheses of empirical science must have some kind of categorical basis, they cannot find this in mathematics, which is the very distilled essence of hypothesis itself. The abstract cannot rest upon the more abstract, but only upon the concrete."

So, this is the direction that Kastrup seems to be going in this article, because he continues:

"This abstract notion, called information realism is philosophical in character, but it has been associated with physics from its very inception. Most famously, information realism is a popular philosophical underpinning for digital physics. The motivation for this association is not hard to fathom.

Indeed, according to the Greek atomists, if we kept on dividing things into ever-smaller bits, at the end there would remain solid, indivisible particles called atoms, imagined to be so concrete as to have even particular shapes. Yet, as our understanding of physics progressed, we've realized that atoms themselves can be further divided into smaller bits, and those into yet smaller ones, and so on, until what is left lacks shape and solidity altogether. At the bottom of the chain of physical reduction there are only elusive, phantasmal entities we label as "energy" and "fields" - abstract conceptual tools for describing nature, which themselves seem to lack any real, concrete essence."

We've talked about this in previous shows. I think it was only a couple weeks ago that we talked about the fallacy of abstraction and the pitfalls that come about from believing that your abstractions describe reality. And this is what Whitehead calls the fallacy of "misplaced concreteness". Collingwood said the same thing in Speculum Mentis when he described the pitfalls of abstraction. What you're basically doing, you're coming up with a general description of a concrete fact, and then taking that general abstract description, and saying that that is the actual fact. So the fact that you were studying in the first place, from which you derived this abstraction. doesn't really exist. The only thing that exists is your abstraction of it. Then you can use your definition of that abstraction, and the features that you impart into that abstraction to then provide a complete description of reality.

Collingwood and Whitehead both argue that you can't do that, that's what matter is. So Whitehead and Kastrup would agree here that matter is an abstraction, because we abstract from the particulars of our experience, the shared features of all of the things we consider material, and we come up with an abstraction that we call matter, which lacks any interior.

If I were to just study the people and the objects within this room I could classify them all as matter, that wouldn't capture the whole of reality because there are actual beings in this room, including humans and several ladybugs and to reduce them to properties of matter, which is basically just atoms in motion and interaction with each other, has something missing in that analysis.

So, it should just be common sense that you can't take your abstractions to describe reality. Reality is something that your abstractions can grasp a bit of, it can account for a bit of it, but not for the whole of it. Well, I'd say that, even with energy and fields, when we're measuring energy and fields, and we're looking at the properties of the things we call energy and fields, even that is an abstraction. Let's say we're taking a measurement, and describing the things we call energy and fields in terms of those measurements, in terms of those things that are observable. That doesn't mean that we've plumbed the depths of energy and fields. There's potentially and probably more to those phenomena than can be captured in those abstract descriptions, right?

Corey: Well yeah. In his book, The Idea of the World, Kastrup really gets into how this misplaced concreteness has gas lit the Western mind for centuries. As he points out, one of the problems is that we've been told, or we all believe, that mind and matter are a dichotomy and in a dichotomy, when you understand one half of the equation, that tells you what the other half is doing.

So, if you have a dichotomy of hot and cold, if you measure something and you know it's hot, then you know it's not cold. Or life and death, if you're talking to someone, and you're having a good time, then you know that they're not dead. But, the problem is that mind and matter don't have that same relationship. You can't use matter to explain the mind and vice versa because, as you said, matter is just an abstraction that comes from the mind. That is the crux of the entire "hard problem of consciousness". That's why philosophers have been wrestling with it for so long, trying to explain what created the abstraction, through the abstraction.

But as he points out, it's actually the concrete reality that we are observing, which led to the need to create this hypothesis about what the world is. So, we needed to understand why we share the same world, why we have these correlations with our internal experience and the physical world. I can't remember the third one, let's just say that those two are the pretty big things that are explained by the matter hypothesis. However, physicality is still just a hypothesis. It's an abstract way of comprehending the world and why it acts the way it does outside of our internal mind.

Oh, the third one is why we can't just interfere with the processes of nature with our own volition, with just the mind. So, it remains a hypothesis to explain those three basic facts of human existence in this world that we live in. It's done remarkably well to explain it for a long time. However, as we've pointed out in last week's shows, and as we continue to point out, it can't be used to explain the nature of the mind, because the mind is what created it. The mind needed it to explain something, and if it worked for a certain number of problems, that doesn't mean that it's going to work for every problem. It doesn't mean that it's true, it means that it's useful. One of the problems, I think like you said Harrison, is that people fall in love with this abstraction. They fall in love with the sense of power, the sense of completion that it provides, that you know exactly what is out there.

Harrison: Comfort.

Corey: Yeah, comfort and the fact that you can manipulate it. I can say with absolute certainty, what the universe is. But, as he points out in his book, this is misplaced certainty. It's narcissism. It's kind of like worshipping a false idol. You deny the divinity of humanity and you worship at the feet of this false idol that is materialism. As you pointed out, it's fundamentally based on a bad way of seeing the world, that mind and matter aren't a dichotomy. They are not like hot and cold, life and death or thick and thin. You can't measure one and know what the other one is. It's a completely different relationship. There are dichotomies within mind, there are dichotomies within this physical world, and there are dichotomies within the properties of the physical world. But, you can't use matter to explain the mind.

Elan: Well, I'd just like us to get back to the very beginning of the essay, to underscore what it is that's being said here. So his criticism, it would seem to be, in looking at Max Tegmark's book Our Mathematical Universe, he's basically saying, as far as I understand, that Tegmark is using mathematics as his way of coming at this...

Harrison: Mm hmm.

Elan: ...whole dichotomy, and mistaking whatever comprehension he has, whatever understanding there is of the universe, and forms and things that exist, through mathematics, as a kind of whole enchilada.

Harrison: Yeah.

Elan: So, that's his point of departure here. It's really kind of a fine point, because we're not used to thinking of the way in which information is being used to describe reality, versus matter, and he's coming at this in a way that I think makes distinctions that we're not used to making and thinking about.

Harrison: Yeah, because, Tegmark does have a point and I'd even agree with him over the people that deny mathematics. We discussed this last year sometime when we were talking about mathematical realism, how there are philosophers and even mathematicians themselves who deny the reality of numbers, for instance and mathematics in general. But that doesn't seem to work. It seems to be that mathematics are a real thing, but they're this non-physical abstract thing. The world does seem to be intimately tied to mathematics. Things seem to behave in mathematical ways. You can describe reality in terms of mathematics, and reality behaves according to, not necessarily the laws, but the dynamics or the principles, the equations of mathematics. There seems to be this intimate marriage between the two. So when you actually realize that, then for sure, the first thing to say is, "Yes, mathematics is real."

But Tegmark, according to Kastrup, goes a bit too far by saying that mathematics is the only real thing, as opposed to saying that somehow it is tied with this thing that we experience as the physical world, as the world in which we find ourselves. There's the fine distinction: on the one hand he's right, mathematics and information are real, and are important, but you then have to ask and answer the question of how are they real? In relation to what are they real? Are they the ultimate bits of reality? Or, are they themselves part of a more fundamental something that makes up reality? So, this is the direction that Kastrup goes into. He's going to be arguing that the most ultimate and most fundamental thing is mind itself. Mind itself can't be reduced to either matter or mathematics, but maybe mathematics and information can be understood in terms of the mind. At least, that's where I think he's going, we'll find out.

So, continuing on, he just gave this description of materialism and the labels of energy and fields that we give to these phantasmal entities. So then he writes:

"To some physicists, this indicates that what we call "matter," with its solidity and concreteness is an illusion; that only the mathematical apparatus they devise in their theories is truly real, not the perceived world the apparatus was created to describe in the first place. From their point of view, such a counterintuitive conclusion is an implication of theory, not a conspicuously narcissistic and self-defeating proposition."

So, he's basically saying there that what these people are saying is, "Oh, we've got a theory, and this is just the counterintuitive conclusion that comes from our theory, and because we believe our theory is true, this must be true. The world must be an illusion, because of the theory, and it's not just a self-defeating proposition because we've got this theory that accounts for everything and because the theory seems to be correct."

But, that's kind of ridiculous, and Kastrup might be framing it in a way in which to make his point here, and he does have a point, because it doesn't matter where it comes from, if it's your theory or not. If your position is self-defeating, then, if it's self-contradictory, then it's not worth having. That means there's something wrong with your theory. It means there's something wrong with the way you're thinking about it. You're missing something. So if you're coming to a conclusion that denies this very basic common sense, then your theory needs revising, maybe being thrown out.

This is the same reason why postmodernism in its truth-denying varieties should be abandoned, because you can't argue for the truth of a theory that denies truth, because your implicitly presupposing the existence of a truth, and that your own theory is true. It doesn't make any sense. So the theory itself should just be thrown out. It means that there's something going wrong in your theory. At some point, either in the course of the argumentation, or in your very basic axioms, principles or presuppositions, something's wrong. One of the premises in your argument is just wrong, because it's leading you to an absurdity. So he goes on:

"Indeed, according to information realists, matter arises from information processing, not the other way around. Even mind - psyche, soul - is supposedly a derivative phenomenon of purely abstract information manipulation. But in such a case, what exactly is meant by the word "information," since there is no physical or mental substrate to ground it?"

So, this is an interesting point. He doesn't really expand on this. He probably does in his book, I'm guessing.

So, if we're calling something information, first of all, what do we mean by that? He'll get to that in a little bit. But then he has this interesting statement: "Since there is no physical or mental substrate to ground it." Everything that we think of information has a substrate, when you think about it. Books have the ink and paper on which they're printed. Radio waves carrying information from a radio source that has been encoded, those waves are encoding that information, and DNA has the actual double helix where the information is coded in a physical way. T

The other types of information that we generally think about, when we are putting information into a physical substrate, what we are doing is we're basically transferring it from our mind, from our imagination, into the physical world in some way. We do this through speech. That's one of the most basic ways. We have all of these external ways to also do that. So instead of speaking we can write it down and we can transmit it through another physical means. We can do it physically through our vocal chords, through the sounds that we make, or we can put it in a book and it'll last for a lot longer than our speech. Or we can record our speech, and that will then live on for longer than the speech itself has lasted.

If you think about before there were any kind of recording devices, before there was any kind of written language, all we had was speaking to each other and the only way to record that would be through memory. So there would be some historical hints that people, at least some cultures had very advanced memory techniques. So, of course, they could remember something as long as the Iliad, or potentially more. Through memorization we could transmit this.

But now that we have multiple terabyte hard drives, we could store vastly more amounts of information more easily and we produce way more information. But the main point is that there seems to have to be some kind of substrate in which information exists. The other one he gives is "No physical or mental substrate" because the ultimate substrate for information is a mind. So when you are thinking of what to say, when you're having an internal dialogue, when you're looking at internal visual imagery, mental imagery, when you're composing a song in your head, when you're hearing music in your head, that is all information. It is all meaningful, but it arguably isn't in a physical substrate.

Now you could argue that because you are using your brain, that that information is somehow in your brain. Well, that may be the case in some sense if there is a one-to-one correlation between every thought you have and every brain state. But, I think Kastrup and several of his colleagues and several of the people that we talk about will argue that "No, the mind does not need a brain in order to process information, or to think", that the mind is a more fundamental part of that equation, where basically the mind thinks, the mind has information in it and then that information may then get encoded in a pattern of brain activity. Or, the body, all the various aspects of your body, your organs, all your nerves and all the different chemical pathways for transferring information for communication within your body, all of that presents information to the brain.

So, there we've got physically instantiated information within the body that presents itself to the brain. The brain does stuff with it. That then gets presented to the mind, or your consciousness, to your perception in some way. A lot of it doesn't, but some of it does, like pain, very easily. We all understand pain and the meaning of pain and that is a transfer of meaningful information from the source of the pain to your own consciousness. So you have the experience of pain.

So, if you're going to argue that information is the only thing that exists, well you have to answer the question, where is that information? How do we think about information? Is information within itself? The only thing that intuitively makes sense based on our experience, unless we're going to speculate about things we have no experience of, in which case we can come up with anything, then we need to look at the examples of our experience, what it means because experience basically provides us with the only things that we can work with. We can't know anything that is outside of our experience, just by definition. So, where do we find information? We find it in physical and mental substrates. Do you want me to go on or do you guys have something to say about that?

Corey: Yeah, I just wanted to add that the only way that information becomes information is with a mind.

Harrison: Right.

Corey: Without that, then you don't have the observer, you don't have that wave collapsing event that they talk about in quantum theory which creates that information gateway or pathway that collapses the system, so that you get an observation, you get a measurement. I think Kastrup writes in the book about one of the driving forces behind the attempt to find a third way of explaining matter and the mind and it goes back to that prejudice against the mind and that hard problem, the impossible task of explaining the mind through just one abstraction that it came up with.

So, if you're trying to find the ultimate source of reality, and you've done away with mind and matter because you can't explain the two in our current way of thinking, and then you find information, it's attractive and it's alluring and in many ways it's a fundamental part of the universe. It's a huge breakthrough to understand the nature of information, but you can't understand it without the mind, and as we've said, it would make more sense to put the mind first, that the experience of information is the ultimate artefact. That's what Kastrup argues, if you're trying to find this ultimate artefact, this ultimate primitive, as I think that's what it's called in physics, that you're best using the mind, because that's all we have. That's how we experience. That's all we know for sure. Everything else out there is a hypothesis, a theory, but we know, I hope that we know, that we have a mind and that we are! When I feel pain, I know I feel pain. Nobody has to prove it to me. If I taste sweet or sour, any kind of experience that I have, that is the core. He argues, that that is the ultimate in the universe.

Harrison: Well, just to go off from that a bit, I think there's a truth in there but even that can be taken a bit too far. That's what Whitehead called, I believe, the subjectionist or the subjectivist principle, when he was analysing Descartes and Locke, and Hume; that all we know is that we have a mind and we have experiences. But Whitehead would argue that that's not all we know. It is the fundamental thing that we know, but intimately tied with that knowledge is the knowledge that there are other things that we know.

So if we have an experience of something, it isn't just a sensory experience that is totally divorced from some other thing and we can't tell if we're in an illusion and dreaming it, or if there's some other thing. Whitehead would argue that on a very basic level, we have a direct knowledge, a direct experience of that other thing, and that's why we have an experience of it. We can only know something through our own subjectivity, through our own experience. But embedded within that experience and that knowledge of the self is this implicit knowledge of the other things around us that we are experiencing.

So, those two are tied together. The question then, is what are the natures of those things. What is the nature of myself as an experiencing subject, and the things that I experience as objects, that present themselves to my experience? So, that is a question that Kastrup deals with too. Not so much in this article, but I guess more so in his book, which we'll get to.

So, the last point which we just made is the whole idea of what is this information if there's no physical or mental substrate? And really, what is this information if information itself is, as far as we know, derivative of minds? Information is an expression of intelligence. Intelligences or organisms are what create meaning. They have meaning in themselves and they create the meaning in the information in their behaviors and in a higher form of life, like humanity through their thoughts. So, Kastrup goes on, writing:

"You see, it is one thing to state in language that information is primary and can therefore exist independently of mind and matter. But it is another thing entirely to explicitly and coherently conceive of what, if anything, this may mean. By way of analogy, it is possible to write, as Lewis Carroll did, that the Cheshire Cat's grin remains after the cat disappears. But it is another thing entirely to conceive explicitly and coherently of what this means.

Our intuitive understanding of the concept of information, as cogently captured by Claude Shannon in 1948, is that it is merely a measure of the number of possible states of an independently existing system. As such, information is a property of an underlying substrate associated with the substrate's possible configurations, not an entity unto itself."

I mentioned Claude Shannon earlier. Maybe to just to give a little bit of background on what he's talking about here, for Claude Shannon, information wasn't the meaning of anything. It was simply the information bearing capacity of your substrate. So in binary, if you had - I hope I'm going to get this right - so, you have zeros and ones in binary, you have two options, right? So if you have five characters, that's five bits, right? Five zeros or ones. I'm guessing there because I'm really not an information technologist {laughter}.

So, you've got possible states there, you've got two possible states in the first position, two in the second, etcetera. You've got a total number of possibilities. So the information carrying capacity of that string of numbers is going to be a certain number, and the longer the string is and the more possibilities, the more information carrying capacity it's going to have. So you could say that in this string of whatever the substrate is, there's a million possibilities or something. So the chances of having this one sequence is one in a million.

You can describe that capacity in terms of bits, but it doesn't say anything about what the actual information is. So you could describe DNA in terms of information carrying capacity but it doesn't describe at all what the DNA actually does or what it actually is. It's just the possible states of this sequence of DNA. When you get to actual meaningful information, like a code, and that might be a cipher, like a password or something, that password then becomes meaningful because it has a function, it has a meaning to it. It is an improbable sequence. It is this one possible sequence out of this vast number of possible sequences. That's why you want to pick good passwords because you don't want them to be able to be guessed. The longer the better, and the more random-seeming numbers you have, the harder it is to guess, because you're collapsing the uncertainty.

Imagine a password set up where every character could be any other character, so no matter what you type, all the passwords work. That would not be a good password, because you could type in any sequence of those letters and you'd get into the system. What you need is the reduction of those possibilities into one specific sequence and that's what a password is. So Claude Shannon himself had an abstraction of information as a measure of a number of possible states. That's pretty much it. He didn't get into the meaning. So, that's why Kastrup goes on to say that:

"To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat's grin without the cat. It is a grammatically valid statement devoid of sense; a word game less meaningful than fantasy, for internally consistent fantasy can at least be explicitly and coherently conceived of as such.

One assumes that serious proponents of information realism are well aware of this line of criticism. How do they then reconcile their position with it? A passage by Luciano Floridi may provide a clue. In a section titled "The nature of information," he states:

'Information is notoriously a polymorphic phenomenon and a polysemantic concept. So, as an explicandum, it can be associated with several explanations, depending on the level of abstraction adopted and the cluster of requirements and desiderata orientating a theory. Information remains an elusive concept.'"

So it's basically a long and wordy way of saying that last bit, "information remains an elusive concept". Kastrup writes:

"Such obscure ambiguity lends information realism a conceptual fluidity that makes it unfalsifiable. After all, if the choice of primitive is given by 'an elusive concept,' how can one definitely establish that it is wrong? In admitting the possibility that information may be 'a network of logically interdependent but mutually irreducible concepts,' Floridi seems to suggest even that such elusiveness is inherent and unresolvable.

Whereas vagueness may be defensible in regard to natural entities conceivably beyond the human ability to apprehend, it is difficult to justify when it comes to a human concept, such as information. We invented the concept, so we either specify clearly what we mean by it or our conceptualization remains too vague to be meaningful. In the latter case, there is literally no sense in attributing primary existence to information.

The untenability of information realism, however, does not erase the problem that motivated it to begin with. The information that, at bottom, what we call matter, becomes pure abstraction, a phantasm. How can the felt concreteness and solidity of the perceived world evaporate out of existence when we look closely at matter?

To make sense of this conundrum, we don't need the word games of information realism. Instead, we must stick to what is most immediately present to us. Solidity and concreteness are qualities of our experience. The world measured, modelled and ultimately predicted by physics is the world of perceptions, a category of mentation. The phantasms and abstractions reside merely in our descriptions of the behavior of that world, not in the world itself."

Anyone want to comment on that bit?

Corey: Like you said Harrison, you can go a little bit too far and say that everything is subjective, but I think that he's really onto something and he's really trying to kick the status quo in the behind and he's trying to advance a way of viewing the world that puts everything back into perspective so that the theories don't become the gods and the idols that everyone worships. Rather, theories are seen as what they are, as theories and yet we still retain an open mind to mind itself and that we put things back into where they belong.

I was saying that the driving force behind all these attempts is to come up with ways of structure the universe, that's the big thing, is trying to structure the universe. What is at the foundation? What is the universe really? Is it just matter? Is it just information? Is it panpsychism? Does everything experience? These are very big questions. How can you understand where the mind came from, if it just came out of nothing, if it came out of nowhere? When the first living being that was capable of some form of consciousness, did it just come out of nowhere? These are the serious questions that people would say they belong in a Philosophy 101 class. That's what the logical positivists and the more analytical branch of philosophy would say.

However the human machine, our machine isn't wired to see reality in that manner. You do have, as Jordan Peterson would say, we're structured, we have a left hemisphere that will view things as we know them, a right hemisphere that is more towards the unknown and that we do have the capacity to be analytical and to still embrace a more broad and fluid, being-centered way of viewing the world, of seeing it in the phenomenological way; as Collingwood would say, being able to get inside the events.

So we have the capacity to do that. It's important, I think, to utilize both of those capabilities, both of those ways of viewing the world because otherwise, we have a one-sided development. We end up just automated, automatons that we worship. I think that's what he's really trying to do. I haven't read his other books, but in the Idea of the World, he says that he tackles this problem with that more analytic way of seeing things. Logic is the handmaiden of science. There's no meaning to the question 'what is the meaning of life'? There's no meaning to the question like 'where does consciousness come from'? or 'what is a mind;?

He tried to write that book, and he wrote this article in that vein where you're very much focused on the nuts and bolts, the logical arguments, getting to the depth of it. But he's also written other works, where he says he's more of a continental type philosopher, more like the Kant or the Heidegger than the people who are just really the kind of romantic and experientialist types of philosophers, and he's written books like that too. He has utilized both approaches to try and hammer home the point that there's a lot more to what's going on than just this theoretical, bleached way of viewing the world and it's almost impossible to live our lives by wholeheartedly denying that. We create a contradiction within ourselves where we deny our own experience. I imagine, from a Cosmic Mind perspective, you'd look down and you'll be like "What?! What are they trying to do there?! They're saying they don't exist?! Are they wishing for non-existence, or...?" I think it's a big conversation and he handles it extremely well. He has the arguments. He really tries to bolster them with scientific evidence in his book. He does draw on scientific evidence to show that physicalism, materialism can't be right. That it's scientifically testable that it is false. It's not how the universe works.

Elan: Well, this whole discussion reminds me greatly of the arguments that are being put to Michael Behe's discussion on intelligent design and evolution, where the scientists - and these are heavy-hitters - who are most vocal in their criticism of Behe's discoveries seem to do is come up with their own theories of how things have evolved, in their minds but that have absolutely, little to no provable demonstrations. It's all something that they've just imagined to be real, and then they proceed from those imaginary developments and ideas of evolution to use those to assume that they are absolutely true and to use as a point of departure from which to try and knock down Behe's assertions, which aren't even assertions. They're just observations that are based on his experience of observable data and objective fact and are completely well reasoned out.

So it seems to me that these scientists who are most vocal in criticizing Behe are kind of the living examples right now of this false dichotomy, who are embodying the materialist way of thinking, even as they try and explain the most cogent, coherent, fact-based arguments for intelligent design. It just screams for knocking down, and that's exactly what we've been reading in articles on SOTT. We've been seeing Behe knock down these arguments one after the next, after the next.

So, that seems to be one of the most egregious or at least obvious examples to me of how many scientists take their own abstractions and imaginings for truth, and are unwilling to experience, for lack of a better word, the facts and discoveries and the coherent reasoning and logic behind intelligent design that we've been looking at in these past may shows and discussions.

Harrison: Well, we're getting to the end of the show today. I'm going to finish this article. It's just a few paragraphs more, and then we'll give our final thoughts. So, Kastrup goes on:

"Where we get lost and confused is in imagining that what we are describing is a non-mental reality underlying our perceptions, as opposed to the perceptions themselves. We then try to find the solidity and concreteness of the perceived world in that postulated underlying reality. However, a non-mental world is inevitably abstract. And since solidity and concreteness are felt qualities of experience - what else? - we cannot find them there. The problem we face is thus merely an artefact of thought, something we conjure up out of thin air because of our theoretical habits and prejudices.

Tegmark is correct in considering matter, defined as something outside and independent of mind, to be unnecessary baggage. But the implication of this fine and indeed brave conclusion is that the universe is a mental construct displayed on the screen of perception. Tegmark's "mathematical universe" is inherently a mental one, for where does mathematics - numbers, sets, equations - exist if not in mentation?

As I elaborate extensively in my new book, The Idea of the World, none of this implies solipsism. This mental universe is what physics is leading us to, not the hand-waving word-games of information realism."

So, he ends it there. He is basically coming out as an idealist in the end and saying that everything is mind. I've had my problems with pure idealism in the past, but I think it may be the case that when you take any of these positions to their extremes, they kind of end up meeting again at the extremes, in a circle. They end up meeting. The reason I says that is if you take physicalism, materialism and you do argue that matter is everything, then if you come to the conclusion that matter is everything but that matter is conscious, then you end up with a position that argues that consciousness is somehow fundamental to reality too. If you argue that mentality is everything, that the way in which mind experiences itself is what we perceive as physical, then you still have something that we call matter, that we call physicality, but that ultimately comes from mind. It's hard to say where the distinctions are to be made, where one kind of goes to the other.

I think this is why I prefer Whitehead so far in that he argues that the fundamental bits of the universe aren't physical, but they're not just mental either. They are what he calls actual occasions. They are things that are experience as physical, but also what we experience as mental. So, every part of the universe, from the smallest subatomic particle, and wave, and field, to the most complex, is both a subject and an object. It is a subject that experiences itself, and other beings, other organisms as objects. But, it is also a subject just like all the other organisms or beings with which it interacts. It's two sides of a coin almost, when you look at it from one perspective, it's physical, and when you look at it from another perspective and it's mental. So, maybe they're essentially saying the same thing with different emphases. At least that's the way it appears to me just based on this short article. Do you know the answers, Corey, do you know all the answers?

Corey: I know all of them, I'm not going share them though, it'll blow your mind. {laughter}

Harrison: You're going to keep them to yourself?

Corey: It seems like in these kinds of debates, they do tend to happen on the same level, on this theoretical level. We've discussed on intelligent design and Elan just brought it up, those scientific discoveries beg the question. They call out for a philosophy that could account for the kinds of intelligence, and Kastrup doesn't really go into that in his book The Idea of the World. He basically just sets out a theoretical framework for how there could be other consciousness in the universe, how the universe could be consciousness. But, to come face-to-face with the kinds of intelligence that science shows us is, I think that it sends a lot of people packing. I think it's just so intense and it's threatening, too. If somebody is watching you as you're driving or walking down the street, and you feel somebody's eyes on your back, you just feel somebody's watching, it's something similar to that. I think that intelligent design will probably be a natural outcome, if that continues to gain momentum, that there will be philosophers who will answer the call of what kinds of intelligence there is in the universe? And I think you're going to need a theory like this to explain how there could be intelligence, not in just a "Oh, you have a bunch of aliens," you know, the Alex Jones theory, "The aliens came and they just threw some space dust down and it grew a bunch of microbes."

I think that you're going to want to have some kind of a theory that explains that and it's not going to be just the typical panpsychic, 'everything is conscious', versus 'everything is matter', type of debate. But it'll be good to restore balance to that debate, to put a little more weight to the consciousness side, to get more people thinking and probing the idea of what kind of intelligence is out there? If everything is information, are there multiple levels of intelligence? When you look at the fine-tuning of the universe so that it can support life, whereas physicists say, I think it was in the book The Rare Earth they argue that the universe is fine-tuned, the planet is fine-tuned, so you could have life. Is there an intelligence that is at that level? And then there's nested hierarchies of intelligence, all the way down to us, and down and down and down, until you get to bacteria. We talked in Consciousness: Anatomy of the Soul, about how there seems to be these big jumps on Earth, every 200 million years. How high does it go?

Harrison: Yeah, I think that's one of the gaps that I see in the current debate, where for the pro-intelligent design people who seem to be the only people considering this in relation to science - there are others, but they're the most vocal, I think - how they will recognize, along with all kinds of other philosophers and people not even related to ID, that there's a range of intelligences, from humans and below, from bacteria to humans. And then you'll get the panpsychists, the panexperientialists, a variety of people like that, Whitehead and David Ray Griffin who will argue that that consciousness goes down to subatomic particles to some degree, that there is some iota of experience in even the simplest thing in the universe.

But them, where all of them seem to stop is, okay, from atoms and stuff up to humans, and then, god! {laughter} So there is a super-intelligence, a vast intelligence that is unfathomably intelligent, and whatever else we can ascribe to it, and then there is humans and everything below. Well could there be intelligences like between humans and that ultimate level? It at least seems plausible if there are all these intelligences, if there are so many vast degrees of intelligence, from protons up to humans, you'd think that maybe it would at least possible that there may be like individualized intelligences between the level of us and the ultimate.

And so what might the role be of an intelligence of that sort? That would be a question to ask and to hopefully answer or speculate about, but no one is really doing that to my knowledge. The only place you had that is in religious traditions of theology and speculation of mystical experience of higher intelligence, like angels, or demons, or whatever like that.

Elan: And framed in the way you did, Harrison, it's completely reasonable to think "As above, so below", that there is some kind of omnipotent higher level being, such as a god or a cosmic mind, that there would be these different levels of intelligence between human beings and that higher being and intelligence, whatever it is. But I think it comes down very much to human arrogance, and the idea that because science hasn't yet theorized or come up with ideas that are satisfying enough to a lot of the Neo-Darwinists, that therefore it can't be so.

Harrison: I think there's some arrogance, but I don't think it's entirely unjustified because we can see bacteria, now. In our everyday experience, we don't have the obvious experience of super-intelligences, that we have of stink bugs and ladybugs and microbes and all these other intelligences that are within our everyday experience. That's why a lot of people reject the idea of a god or a cosmic mind, they can't see how that applies to their everyday life. Some get there philosophically and say "Oh, there must be this overarching intelligence that could exist even though I have no direct experience of it to my knowledge." On the one hand, it is at least justified that it is hard to believe in things that you don't see. But that's a topic for another show. We're going to end it there for today and we'll be coming back to this in the coming weeks, so thanks for tuning in. See you guys.

Corey: Bye-bye!

Elan: Bye everyone.