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Another atheist checks out of no consciousness/no free will

In “You don’t really exist, do you?” (December 10, 2011), at his blog Rationally Speaking, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers reasons to reject the materialist claim that our consciousness is an illusion:

For some time I have been noticing the emergence of a strange trinity of beliefs among my fellow skeptics and freethinkers: an increasing number of them, it seems, don’t believe that they can make decisions (the free will debate), don’t believe that they have moral responsibility (because they don’t have free will, or because morality is relative — take your pick), and they don’t even believe that they exist as conscious beings because, you know, consciousness is an illusion.

… a closer look at the evidence does not bear out the increasingly persistent myth that “it’s all unconscious anyway.” Here very interesting work has been done by Alfred Mele at Florida State University. In his Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will, Mele critically examines claims to the effect that, for instance, our brains make decisions before we become conscious of them, or that intentions don’t play a role in producing actions. He finds the evidence for such extraordinary claims extraordinarily deficient and — to the contrary — lines up evidence from neurobiology for the conclusion that consciousness plays a major role in (some, most certainly not all) of our decisions, particularly when it comes to the sort of decisions we normally do attribute to conscious deliberation (like whether to change career, say, not just when to push a button on a computer screen, a la Libet experiments).

As a matter of fact, the older one gets, the more likely one is to take some time to make a decision – because all aspects of one’s mind are not reporting at once. Not all decisions are equally easy, or fact-rich.

That is why David Brooks’ “The young and the neuro” have got it all wrong.

It’s interesting how many atheists are pulling back from the materialist conclusions.

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13 Responses to Another atheist checks out of no consciousness/no free will

  1. Of Related Note:

    The Mind Is Not The Brain – Scientific Evidence – Rupert Sheldrake – video – (Referenced Notes In Description)
    http://vimeo.com/33479544

  2. Please correct
    The co-author of “What Darwin got wrong” is Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini

  3. You’re right! Never got them straight. Wow! That makes three atheists who don’t go along with the crudmeisters.

  4. All the satirists in the world could not have concocted something so ridiculous as intellectuals consciously pondering whether consciousness exists.

    What drives materialists crazy is that consciousness cannot be seen, tasted, smelled, touched, heard, or studied in a laboratory. But how could it be otherwise? Consciousness is the very thing that is DOING the seeing, the tasting, the smelling, etc… We define material objects by their effect upon our senses – how they feel in our hands, how they appear to our eyes. But we know consciousness simply by BEING it! Indeed, if consciousness did have weight, texture, odor, etc (and perhaps someone might argue that it does), then even if we did encounter those sensations, we would not interpret those things as consciousness, because the sensations caused externally by a conscious being are a very different thing from the experience of being conscious.

  5. well, it’s time to implement the “thumbs up” / down buttons, b/c I want to give a thumbs up to APM@3 and this takes too long. Thanks!

  6. APM, your very well put description of illustrating just how consciousness is at a primary, even ‘privileged’, position within reality actually does have some very strong experimental support, from the ‘laboratory’, in quantum mechanics:

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
    Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    Here is the key experiment that led Wigner to his Nobel Prize winning work on quantum symmetries:

    Eugene Wigner
    Excerpt: To express this basic experience in a more direct way: the world does not have a privileged center, there is no absolute rest, preferred direction, unique origin of calendar time, even left and right seem to be rather symmetric. The interference of electrons, photons, neutrons has indicated that the state of a particle can be described by a vector possessing a certain number of components. As the observer is replaced by another observer (working elsewhere, looking at a different direction, using another clock, perhaps being left-handed), the state of the very same particle is described by another vector, obtained from the previous vector by multiplying it with a matrix. This matrix transfers from one observer to another.
    http://www.reak.bme.hu/Wigner_.....io/wb1.htm

    i.e. In the experiment the ‘world’ (i.e. the universe) does not have a ‘privileged center’. Yet strangely, the conscious observer does exhibit a ‘privileged center’. This is since the ‘matrix’, which determines which vector will be used to describe the particle in the experiment, is ‘observer-centric’ in its origination! Thus explaining Wigner’s dramatic statement, “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”

    It is important to stress just how central ‘observation’ is in quantum mechanics as to collapsing a wave function to its ‘uncertain’ 3-Dimensional state:

    Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment & Entanglement – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4096579

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality
    Excerpt: Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens (of the galaxy) at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment? ,,, This is big trouble for the multi-universe theory and for the “hidden-variables” approach.
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....r.html.ori

    Quote of note:

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The Father Of Quantum Mechanics – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)(Of Note: Max Planck was a devoted Christian from early life to death.)

  7. You’re right! Never got them straight. Wow! That makes three atheists who don’t go along with the crudmeisters.

    Can you give a couple examples of those who are crudmeisters? Thanks.

  8. i.e. In the experiment the ‘world’ (i.e. the universe) does not have a ‘privileged center’. Yet strangely, the conscious observer does exhibit a ‘privileged center’.

    You are mixing two very different and unrelated notions of “privileged center.”

  9. APM:

    I add my humble thumbs up! :)

  10. Neil Rickert,

    You are mixing two very different and unrelated notions of “privileged center.”

    Actually ‘privileged center’ is far more of a ‘privileged centered’ in the universe than I had related in that short post. Forgive the length, but this following longer post reveals just how profound centrality is for each individual observer in the universe:

    Notes:

    Centrality of Each Observer In The Universe and Christ’s Very Credible Reconciliation Of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

    ,,,A ‘Christian’ interpretation offers a very credible, empirically backed, reconciliation of General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics:

    First a little background:

    ,,, First I noticed that the earth demonstrates centrality in the universe in this following video Dr. Dembski posted on UD a while back;

    The Known Universe – Dec. 2009 – a very cool video (please note the centrality of the earth in the universe)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

    ,,, for a while I tried to see if the 4-D space-time of General Relativity was sufficient to explain centrality we witness for the earth in the universe,,,

    Where is the centre of the universe?:
    Excerpt: The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space; rather, the whole universe is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell.
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/.....entre.html

    ,,,Thus from a 3-dimensional (3D) perspective, any particular 3D spot in the universe is to be considered just as ‘center of the universe’ as any other particular 3D spot in the universe is to be considered ‘center of the universe’. This centrality found for any 3D place in the universe is because the universe is a 4D expanding hypersphere, analogous in 3D to the surface of an expanding balloon. Every point on the surface is moving away from each other, and every point is central, if that’s where you live.,,,

    4-Dimensional Space-Time Of General Relativity – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3991873/

    ,,,yet there is a problem in that ‘simple’ solution for explaining why witness centrality for the earth in the universe. I kept running into the same problem for establishing the sufficiency of General Relativity to explain our centrality in this universe, in that every time I would perform a ‘thought experiment’ of trying radically different points of observation in the universe, General Relativity would fail to maintain centrality for the radically different point of observation in the universe. The primary reason for this failure of General Relativity to maintain centrality, for different points of observation in the universe, is due to the fact that there are limited (10^80) material particles to work with. Though this failure of General Relativity was obvious to me, I needed more proof so as to establish it more rigorously, so I dug around a bit and found this,,,

    The Cauchy Problem In General Relativity – Igor Rodnianski
    Excerpt: 2.2 Large Data Problem In General Relativity – While the result of Choquet-Bruhat and its subsequent refinements guarantee the existence and uniqueness of a (maximal) Cauchy development, they provide no information about its geodesic completeness and thus, in the language of partial differential equations, constitutes a local existence. ,,, More generally, there are a number of conditions that will guarantee the space-time will be geodesically incomplete.,,, In the language of partial differential equations this means an impossibility of a large data global existence result for all initial data in General Relativity.
    http://www.icm2006.org/proceed.....l_3_22.pdf

    ,,,and also ‘serendipitously’ found this,,,

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: Gödel’s personal God is under no obligation to behave in a predictable orderly fashion, and Gödel produced what may be the most damaging critique of general relativity. In a Festschrift, (a book honoring Einstein), for Einstein’s seventieth birthday in 1949, Gödel demonstrated the possibility of a special case in which, as Palle Yourgrau described the result, “the large-scale geometry of the world is so warped that there exist space-time curves that bend back on themselves so far that they close; that is, they return to their starting point.” This means that “a highly accelerated spaceship journey along such a closed path, or world line, could only be described as time travel.” In fact, “Gödel worked out the length and time for the journey, as well as the exact speed and fuel requirements.” Gödel, of course, did not actually believe in time travel, but he understood his paper to undermine the Einsteinian worldview from within.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    ,,,But if General Relativity is insufficient to explain the centrality we witness for ourselves in the universe, what else is? Universal Quantum wave collapse to each unique point of conscious observation is! To prove this point I dug around a bit and found this experiment,,,

    This following experiment extended the double slit experiment to show that the ‘spooky actions’, for instantaneous quantum wave collapse, happen regardless of any considerations for time or distance i.e. The following experiment shows that quantum actions are ‘universal and instantaneous’ for each observer:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality
    Excerpt: Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens (of the galaxy) at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment? ,,, This is big trouble for the multi-universe theory and for the “hidden-variables” approach.
    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2.....r.html.ori

    ,,,Moreover, there is even a experiment that shows that the preceding quantum experiments will never be overturned by another ‘future’ theory,,,

    An experimental test of all theories with predictive power beyond quantum theory – May 2011
    Excerpt: Hence, we can immediately refute any already considered or yet-to-be-proposed alternative model with more predictive power than this (quantum theory).
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1105.0133

    ,, and to make universal Quantum Wave collapse much more ‘personal’ I found this,,,

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    ,,,Here is the key experiment that led Wigner to his Nobel Prize winning work on quantum symmetries,,,

    Eugene Wigner
    Excerpt: To express this basic experience in a more direct way: the world does not have a privileged center, there is no absolute rest, preferred direction, unique origin of calendar time, even left and right seem to be rather symmetric. The interference of electrons, photons, neutrons has indicated that the state of a particle can be described by a vector possessing a certain number of components. As the observer is replaced by another observer (working elsewhere, looking at a different direction, using another clock, perhaps being left-handed), the state of the very same particle is described by another vector, obtained from the previous vector by multiplying it with a matrix. This matrix transfers from one observer to another.
    http://www.reak.bme.hu/Wigner_.....io/wb1.htm

    i.e. In the experiment the ‘world’ (i.e. the universe) does not have a ‘privileged center’. Yet strangely, the conscious observer does exhibit a ‘privileged center’. This is since the ‘matrix’, which determines which vector will be used to describe the particle in the experiment, is ‘observer-centric’ in its origination! Thus explaining Wigner’s dramatic statement, “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”

    I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3-D state is centered on each individual observer in the universe, whereas, 4-D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3-D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe:

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

  11. The expansion of every 3D point in the universe, and the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe to each point of conscious observation in the universe, is obviously a very interesting congruence in science between the very large (relativity) and the very small (quantum mechanics). A congruence that Physicists, and Mathematicians, seem to be having a extremely difficult time ‘unifying’ into a ‘theory of everything’.(Einstein, Penrose).

    The conflict of reconciling General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics appears to arise from the inability of either theory to successfully deal with the Zero/Infinity problem that crops up in different places of each theory:

    THE MYSTERIOUS ZERO/INFINITY
    Excerpt: The biggest challenge to today’s physicists is how to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. However, these two pillars of modern science were bound to be incompatible. “The universe of general relativity is a smooth rubber sheet. It is continuous and flowing, never sharp, never pointy. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, describes a jerky and discontinuous universe. What the two theories have in common – and what they clash over – is zero.”,, “The infinite zero of a black hole — mass crammed into zero space, curving space infinitely — punches a hole in the smooth rubber sheet. The equations of general relativity cannot deal with the sharpness of zero. In a black hole, space and time are meaningless.”,, “Quantum mechanics has a similar problem, a problem related to the zero-point energy. The laws of quantum mechanics treat particles such as the electron as points; that is, they take up no space at all. The electron is a zero-dimensional object,,, According to the rules of quantum mechanics, the zero-dimensional electron has infinite mass and infinite charge.
    http://www.fmbr.org/editoral/e....._mar02.htm

    Quantum Mechanics and Relativity – The Collapse Of Physics? – video – with notes as to plausible reconciliation that is missed by materialists (Please note; the ‘infinity problem’ is focused primarily in black holes)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6597379/

    Yet, the unification, into a ‘theory of everything’, between what is in essence the ‘infinite Theistic world of Quantum Mechanics’ and the ‘finite Materialistic world of the 4-D space-time of General Relativity’ seems to be directly related to what Jesus apparently joined together with His resurrection, i.e. related to the unification of infinite God with finite man. Dr. William Dembski in this following comment, though not directly addressing the Zero/Infinity conflict in General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, offers insight into this ‘unification’ of the infinite and the finite:

    The End Of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World – Pg.31 – William Dembski PhD. in Mathematics and Theology
    Excerpt: “In mathematics there are two ways to go to infinity. One is to grow large without measure. The other is to form a fraction in which the denominator goes to zero. The Cross is a path of humility in which the infinite God becomes finite and then contracts to zero, only to resurrect and thereby unite a finite humanity within a newfound infinity.”
    http://www.designinference.com.....of_xty.pdf

    ,,,Also of related interest to this ‘Zero/Infinity conflict of reconciliation’, between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, is the fact that a ‘uncollapsed’ photon, in its quantum wave state, is mathematically defined as ‘infinite’ information,,,

    Wave function – wikipedia
    Excerpt “wave functions form an abstract vector space”,,, This vector space is infinite-dimensional, because there is no finite set of functions which can be added together in various combinations to create every possible function.

    Quantum Computing – Stanford Encyclopedia
    Excerpt: Theoretically, a single (photon) qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,,
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....tcomp/#2.1

    It is important to note that the following experiment actually encoded information into a photon while it was in its quantum wave state, thus destroying the notion, held by many, that the wave function was not ‘physically real’ but was merely ‘abstract’. i.e. How can information possibly be encoded into something that is not physically real but merely abstract?

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    The following mathematically corroborated the preceding experiment:

    Quantum Theory’s ‘Wavefunction’ Found to Be Real Physical Entity: Scientific American – November 2011
    Excerpt: David Wallace, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford, UK, says that the theorem is the most important result in the foundations of quantum mechanics that he has seen in his 15-year professional career. “This strips away obscurity and shows you can’t have an interpretation of a quantum state as probabilistic,” he says.
    http://www.scientificamerican......vefunction

    ,,Moreover there is actual physical evidence that lends strong support to the position that the ‘Zero/Infinity conflict’, that we find between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, was successfully dealt with by Christ,,,

    THE EVENT HORIZON (Space-Time Singularity) OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN. – Isabel Piczek – Particle Physicist
    Excerpt: We have stated before that the images on the Shroud firmly indicate the total absence of Gravity. Yet they also firmly indicate the presence of the Event Horizon. These two seemingly contradict each other and they necessitate the past presence of something more powerful than Gravity that had the capacity to solve the above paradox.
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/i.....-formation

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5070355

    Turin Shroud Enters 3D Age – Holographic Pictures, Articles and Videos
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1gDY4CJkoFedewMG94gdUk1Z1jexestdy5fh87RwWAfg

    “Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known to us of nature.”
    St. Augustine

  12. While I agree with a criticism, from a Christian, that was leveled against the preceding Shroud of Turin video, that God needed no help from the universe in the resurrection event of Christ since all things are possible with God, I am none-the-less very happy to see that what is considered the number one problem of Physicists and Mathematicians in physics today, of a ‘unification into a theory of everything’ for what is in essence the finite world of General Relativity and the infinite world of Quantum Mechanics, does in fact seem to find a successful resolution for ‘unification’ within the resurrection event of Jesus Christ Himself. It seems almost overwhelmingly apparent to me from the ‘scientific evidence’ we now have in hand that Christ literally ripped a hole in the finite entropic space-time of this universe to reunite infinite God with finite man. That modern science would even offer such a almost tangible glimpse into the mechanics of what happened in the tomb of Christ should be a source of great wonder and comfort for the Christian heart.

    Psalms 16:10
    because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

    Matthew 28:18
    And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and upon earth.”

    Brooke Fraser – Hillsong: “Lord Of Lords” (HQ)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB4Tc5zJMUc

    further note: It should also be pointed out that Special and General Relativity reveal two very, very, different ‘eternalities of time’ within space-time. The ‘entropic eternality of time’ revealed for black holes is rather disturbing for those of us of a spiritual persuasion:

    On The Mystery, and Plasticity, of Space-Time:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FFKL3FeyebpNNyal1DQ64y20zlplVrjkaLXrM0P5ES4/edit?hl=en_US

    further notes:

    Falsification Of Neo-Darwinism by Quantum Entanglement/Information
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p8AQgqFqiRQwyaF8t1_CKTPQ9duN8FHU9-pV4oBDOVs/edit?hl=en_US

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/29895068

  13. You’re delving far beyond my level of scientific expertise, but I will say that the basic premise rings true to me in a more general sense – i.e., not just quantum mechanics, but all of science and knowledge doesn’t make sense without consciousness. To doubt the observer as an observer is to doubt all our logic, all our knowledge, all our equations and experiments, because everything we discover is dependent upon somebody somewhere subjectively discovering it.

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