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Thread: Can Atheism Account For Rationality

  1. #671
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Perhaps I can clarify my point. If God created matter, energy and the laws by which the universe operates then it is no way "natural." It's genesis is supernatural, it is not a natural event or result.
    If that were true, then the origins of the universe would have been supernatural, agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    And again, your definitions are arbitrary, you can not escape that. You are free to use them but again they can not be justified without begging the question.
    Seer, ALL definitions "beg the question." See that round, brown thing over there - the smallest denomination coin in use in the U.S.? We call it a "penny." Why? Because we all agree to call it a "penny" so we don't have to say, "round, brown, smallest-denomination coin used in the U.S." "Penny" is just so much easier. That is the nature of language. I don't know what you suggest in it's place. Human beings "make up words" to provide a symbol that represents an objective reality. So I really have no clue why you are quibbling over definitions. If you don't like "natural," then use some other word more to your liking, or just say, "not created by humans and can be investigated using the scientific method." Unless you are suggesting this universe cannot be investigated using the scientific method? That would seem to me to be an odd claim for someone who has said the universe operates according to repeatable/predictable/intelligible principles - which is the very basis for science. Or perhaps you're suggesting the "supernatural" CAN be investigated using the scientific method? If so, then I would like to know how you propose to falsify the proposition "we are all sinful in the eyes of god and worthy of his wrath" (the cheerful little message on a card someone handed me on the street in Halifax this morning).

    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    You seek to reduce the "supernatural" to that which can not be investigated, but how on earth do you, or anyone, know that? You don't and can't.
    I don't "reduce" the supernatural to anything. The world of facts falls into two large camps: that which can be investigated using the scientific method and that which cannot. We call the former "natural" because they are part of this universe and we encounter the "nature" of this universe every waking day. We call the latter "supernatural." Gods and claims about gods (AFAIK) are considered supernatural. If you think otherwise, then propose a hypothesis about a theological claim and outline the experiment you would use to scientifically investigate and confirm or falsify the hypothesis. If you can pull that off, I think you will be the first to do so.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

  2. #672
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Evidentiary basis? Interpreting the evidence is matter of worldview, it has nothing to do with any "evidentiary basis". You do not have any "evidentiary basis" for interpreting the evidence to support brain-before-mind anymore than I do for interpreting it to support mind-before-brain.

    No, my argument is "It's out of the purview of science, so there cannot be any scientific evidence". It's simply not a question that can be resolved with the help of science. Science might give us some insights into the issue, but it's not the primary way to answer the question.
    Then this is the crux of our disagreement. You are making a "can't" claim I do not think you can substantiate. Scientists are investigating and making headway on understanding. We don't know everything, of course, because we are dealing with systems so complex we lack the tools to even begin to model them with any degree of fidelity. But the tools keep getting better and more and more is learned with each new experiment and each new discovery.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I took "self-reports of mental states" as referring to someone else reporting their mental states to you. Under that interpretation I cannot see how my statement is self-refuting.
    And yet, this is normal for science. There are many things we investigate that we only have indirect evidence for. I'm not seeing an issue. We can design experiments that adjust for this, and have done so in many areas

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Sometimes two things that we cannot "see" are disparate enough that we cannot study one in the same way we can study the other.
    Sometimes. As best I can tell - this is not one of those times.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I don't.
    I'll take you at your word.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Do you accept anything other than scientific evidence?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I don't see it because in order to get the evidence to tell the story you claim it's telling you have to start of by holding a slew of unevidenced assumptions that I simply do not accept. And I do admit I hold to a pretty decent amount of unevidenced assumptions as well, but I see no reason why I should switch out my assumptions for yours, simply to get the evidence to say what you're claiming it's saying.
    So what "unevidenced assumptions" do you think I (or scientists) are making?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Do keep in mind that this discussion initially started because I claimed (being slightly hyperbolic) that mind and brain share virtually no attributes. The whole thing about mind and brain both being associated with thought was something you brought up as a counter to that. And I brought up "primary" and "secondary" association as a "counter-counter".
    Thought is to brain as mind is to brain, because my mind is essentially the sum of my thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Well we do have thoughts about our thoughts, but I have not affirmed that focus/concentration is simply a different type of thought. And I don't "create" this distinction between focus/concentration and thought, I experience the distinction every single moment of my life.
    Odd. I do not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Well of course a gun and a bullet are distinct things with distinct roles. And you're begging the question that the will/focus of the wielder is not distinct from their thoughts.
    Actually - I have absolutely no clue how anyone could see them AS distinct. Your position flummoxes me. It does not align with my experience, and I can find no sense in it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I don't how it could be any clearer than I've already made it. Just because one thing is always accompanied by another doesn't mean the two things are identical.
    No argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Just because concentration is always accompanied by thought doesn't mean concentration is identical to thought, in the same way thunder isn't identical to lightning simply because lightning is always accompanied by thunder.
    I am not saying it is "accompanied," Chrawnus. I am saying it IS thought. The two are inseparable. A decision is an act of will is a thought. Concentration is an act of will is a thought. Recalling memory is an act of will is a thought. I don't have will AND a thought...I have will that IS a thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I would argue that the neural activity give rise to our sensory experiences, but they're not actually identical to those experiences. The experiences themselves only exist in our minds.
    And the argument does not seem to have a basis except your "unevidenced assumptions" about the primacy of mind. The electrochemical activity of our sensory organs, nervous system, and brain are a direct physiological response to external stimuli. This is evidenced. The "experience" that produces is indeed a function of "mind." What we do not know, today, is how that physiological response translates to an experiential one. There is progress here, but more unanswered questions than answered ones. But the fact remains that we have ZERO evidence of ANY experiential response WITHOUT brain, and an enormous body of evidence for experiential response WITH brain - and for the ability to impact that experiential response by impacting brain.

    How you can look at this evidence and not see where it points, and still cling to a position that is completely unevidenced is beyond me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I think you might be defining thought in such a general and ambigious manner that no matter what example I give you'll still be able to claim it's "simply yet another example of 'thought'".
    OK - then offer a definition of "thought" that we can work with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I'm pretty conversant with both of them actually, so there's no need to worry about me being deceived by the one who's known for not being entirely truthful.
    Ahhh.. famous last words. Sadly enough...you already have been...

    (while I am enjoying the repartee, I want to make sure we don't accidentally drift into bad blood. I know you think my views are in error, as I think yours are. I also think you are "good people." Let's make sure we don't lose sight of that)
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

  3. #673
    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    I don't really get why he doesn't understand the difference between will, focus, thought. Perhaps his mind is so filled with noise that he hasn't noticed the difference. Also, I don't know that it's even true that concentration is always accompanied by thought. In many forms of mediation, thoughtless concentration is a goal. There's even a word for this in Zen circles called mushin. A good argument for something other than "thought" found within the mind would be sensation and/or emotion. One can feel the sensation of nausea, pain, joy, pleasure, etc., without thought. In their work History of Cognitive Neuroscience M. R. Bennett, and P. M. S. Hacker discuss the distinction of feeling such things (emotions, for instance) and realizing that you are feeling it, and then the difference between realizing such things, and even having thoughts about such things.
    So, as I understand "mushin," it is not the absence of thought. Rather, it is the absence of conscious thought that can interfere with the subconscious thought process - what we in the west might call "muscle memory" or being "in the zone." And "thoughtless concentration" is merely a shorthand way of saying "concentration without extraneous thought." It doesn't mean concentration is NOT thought. It means all thoughts other than concentration itself are to be eschewed as a distraction.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

  4. #674
    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    So, as I understand "mushin," it is not the absence of thought. Rather, it is the absence of conscious thought that can interfere with the subconscious thought process - what we in the west might call "muscle memory" or being "in the zone."
    No, practitioners of mushin don't consider it autopilot or being in the zone, rather they consider it "a focused mind which has been freed of all distractions, clutter, unproductive emotions, and self-imposed limitations.1" I'm curious, where you read that mushin is described as "subconscious thought."

    Also, can you provide a source for an academic definition of "subconscious thought" so that everyone is on the same page? Not "subconsciousness," but "subconscious thought." There seems to be quite a bit of debate on whether or not there's any real distinction between subconscious and conscious thought, and whether or not the phrase "subconscious thought" is itself contradictory. When I see it referenced it's often used as shorthand for the sort of thing you describe above. A sort of "in the zone" acting without thinking, or perhaps holding certain fundamental worldviews without bringing them into the consciousness. That sort of thing. But is that just shorthand, or can one really have "thoughts" in the now that they themselves are not presently aware of?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    You're preaching to the choir.



    Recalling a memory is definitely a thought. But it seems to me they have to be recalled "from somewhere," which suggests storage. And I agree the computer is not an exact example of how a brain works - which is why it is an analogy. Analogies are similar to, but not exactly like, their analogs. They are a tool for fostering understanding; they are not intended to be a scientific investigation. As I have noted multiple times now, there is much about the brain that we do not know and can only guess at.



    Then I suggest you are ignoring some fairly obvious facts, and a lot of evidence. Look, Jim, the "immaterial" is simply that: it lacks material. Immaterial things exist, whether or not you subscribe to them. Philosophy is a useful tool, even though so many materialists ignore or denigrate it. Historically, it is the seed-bed for all of science. And there are philosophical issues at work here that science may or may not ever address. What is the nature of "I" is one of those areas. Is it associated with brain? Absolutely. Is it dependent on brain? The evidence strongly suggests (but does not prove) that this is also the case. Does it transcend brain? Is it more than can be accounted for by the sum of the parts?

    Emergent properties are real. We don't understand them fully yet - but they exist. And given that they manifest exclusively (as far as I know) from complex systems, yet are not evident in the individual members of those complex systems, they are "something else." What? I have no idea.

    But there is still room for wonder in these increasingly older bones. I think I'll enjoy it for a bit.

    And with that, I think we have perhaps exhausted this line of discussion. I find myself repeating (yet again) and it's a habit I'm working on. I'll leave the last word to you.
    Okay, but just so you understand, that when you recognize that memory is something stored in the brain and that thoughts are something outside the brain, then you are suggesting that it is a ghost, an immaterial mind that is doing the thinking. Also, just as an aside, i'm wondering when you say that, as opposed to "thoughts," memories are stored in the brain, what do you suppose those memories are made of that are stored in the brain?

  6. #676
    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Then this is the crux of our disagreement. You are making a "can't" claim I do not think you can substantiate. Scientists are investigating and making headway on understanding. We don't know everything, of course, because we are dealing with systems so complex we lack the tools to even begin to model them with any degree of fidelity. But the tools keep getting better and more and more is learned with each new experiment and each new discovery.
    There is no reason to believe that we will figure out how the material gives rise to the mental simply because our tools keep getting better, or because we learn more about the complexity of the neurological system. There's no compelling argument yet as to why complexity --> mind, and simply figuring out more about the complexities of the of the neurological system and how it's different parts work together won't make the "complexity --> mind" claim any more plausible.

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    And yet, this is normal for science. There are many things we investigate that we only have indirect evidence for. I'm not seeing an issue. We can design experiments that adjust for this, and have done so in many areas
    I'm mostly being a pedant about you using the term "first-hand evidence" in a way I don't agree with, nothing more.


    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Sometimes. As best I can tell - this is not one of those times.
    We can infer that other people have minds by their behavior and speech, just as we can infer that quarks and black holes exist by the effect they have on their surroundings. So far I'm in agreement with you, I think. Where I disagree is that there is anything about the behavior and speech of humans, in any stage of development, that allows us to make the inference that the mind arises from the brain.

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Yes.
    Good. So what kind of evidence would you accept then?

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    So what "unevidenced assumptions" do you think I (or scientists) are making?
    Well, that materia preceded mind for instance. It's pretty much an unstated assumption among most neuroscientist that materia existed before mind, and every piece of evidence they find is filtered through that assumption.

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Thought is to brain as mind is to brain, because my mind is essentially the sum of my thoughts.
    Allow me to disagree.

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Odd. I do not.
    Not sure what I can do about that.


    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Actually - I have absolutely no clue how anyone could see them AS distinct. Your position flummoxes me. It does not align with my experience, and I can find no sense in it.
    And I have the same reaction towards your view.


    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    I am not saying it is "accompanied," Chrawnus. I am saying it IS thought. The two are inseparable. A decision is an act of will is a thought. Concentration is an act of will is a thought. Recalling memory is an act of will is a thought. I don't have will AND a thought...I have will that IS a thought.
    You're right, you're not saying your will, focus and concentration is accompanied by thought, I am. My claim is that you're taking something we all experience in our daily lives (that thought always, or almost always, if the info Adrift provided is correct, accompanies will and focus/concentration) and from that making the unjustified assumption that therefore these facets of mind is identical to the thoughts which accompany them.


    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    And the argument does not seem to have a basis except your "unevidenced assumptions" about the primacy of mind. The electrochemical activity of our sensory organs, nervous system, and brain are a direct physiological response to external stimuli. This is evidenced. The "experience" that produces is indeed a function of "mind." What we do not know, today, is how that physiological response translates to an experiential one. There is progress here, but more unanswered questions than answered ones. But the fact remains that we have ZERO evidence of ANY experiential response WITHOUT brain, and an enormous body of evidence for experiential response WITH brain - and for the ability to impact that experiential response by impacting brain.
    The question as to how the physiological response translates to an experiental one is completely immaterial to the question whether sensory experiences are facets of the mind that are not thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    How you can look at this evidence and not see where it points, and still cling to a position that is completely unevidenced is beyond me.
    It points to there being some sort of relationship between the brain and the mind. It says nothing about which one is primary.


    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    OK - then offer a definition of "thought" that we can work with.
    A mental unit that is imbued with semantic content, perhaps?

    Quote Originally Posted by carpedm9587 View Post
    Ahhh.. famous last words. Sadly enough...you already have been...

    (while I am enjoying the repartee, I want to make sure we don't accidentally drift into bad blood. I know you think my views are in error, as I think yours are. I also think you are "good people." Let's make sure we don't lose sight of that)
    (I agree. I also can't be bothered to come up with any more "witty" rejoinders, so I think the previous one will be my last one )

  7. #677
    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    There is no reason to believe that we will figure out how the material gives rise to the mental simply because our tools keep getting better, or because we learn more about the complexity of the neurological system. There's no compelling argument yet as to why complexity --> mind, and simply figuring out more about the complexities of the of the neurological system and how it's different parts work together won't make the "complexity --> mind" claim any more plausible.
    Seems to me that he's grasping here for a classic "Science of the gaps" argument. "We don't understand it now, but some day science will figure it all out for us."

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    Seems to me that he's grasping here for a classic "Science of the gaps" argument. "We don't understand it now, but some day science will figure it all out for us."
    Your so-called “science of the gaps” has a far better track record than the classic “god of the gaps”, which has a dismal track record.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Perhaps I can clarify my point. If God created matter, energy and the laws by which the universe operates then it is no way "natural."
    The key word here is the conditional "IF". There is no good reason to add a supernatural deity into the equation at all.
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    There is no reason to believe that we will figure out how the material gives rise to the mental simply because our tools keep getting better, or because we learn more about the complexity of the neurological system. There's no compelling argument yet as to why complexity --> mind, and simply figuring out more about the complexities of the of the neurological system and how it's different parts work together won't make the "complexity --> mind" claim any more plausible.
    I agree there is minimal progress with regards to complex systems, but I think it's a bit premature to say "never figure it out." We are barely six decades into the computer age. I think you're making too definitive a statement. I'll leave it at, "we're not there, yet."

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    I'm mostly being a pedant about you using the term "first-hand evidence" in a way I don't agree with, nothing more.
    Does this mean you have officially hung yourself from a chain around someone's neck?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    We can infer that other people have minds by their behavior and speech, just as we can infer that quarks and black holes exist by the effect they have on their surroundings. So far I'm in agreement with you, I think. Where I disagree is that there is anything about the behavior and speech of humans, in any stage of development, that allows us to make the inference that the mind arises from the brain.
    I don't think I made that claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Good. So what kind of evidence would you accept then?
    Depends on the subject matter. I accept my wife's word when she says she loves me (though that might be just a tad self-serving... ). I accept the evidence of my senses for most day-to-day things (is it raining, does that T-shirt need a good wash, etc.). As a student of philosophy (though that BA is almost 40 years old), I'll accept any valid argument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Well, that materia preceded mind for instance. It's pretty much an unstated assumption among most neuroscientist that materia existed before mind, and every piece of evidence they find is filtered through that assumption.
    Speaking for myself - I come to that as a "most likely conclusion" based on the evidence - not because I started there. Indeed, I started as an evangelical catholic with all the spiritual/soul bells and whistles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Allow me to disagree.
    Always. Being wrong is your absolute right...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Not sure what I can do about that.
    At first glance - nothing. But I do find it odd, and wonder how much of that "experience" you report is due to your pre-existing mindset. Of course, I would imagine you have the same question of me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    And I have the same reaction towards your view.
    Say it ain't so! (that's meant as a joke...)*

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    You're right, you're not saying your will, focus and concentration is accompanied by thought, I am. My claim is that you're taking something we all experience in our daily lives (that thought always, or almost always, if the info Adrift provided is correct, accompanies will and focus/concentration) and from that making the unjustified assumption that therefore these facets of mind is identical to the thoughts which accompany them.
    Yes - I got that part...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    The question as to how the physiological response translates to an experiental one is completely immaterial to the question whether sensory experiences are facets of the mind that are not thoughts.
    Again, all of this is "thought." However, not all "thought" is conscious. Our brain processes (as best we can tell) sensory information on a subconscious level. The analogy would be to those physical acts that are autonomic versus willed. I have to make a conscious decision to raise my arm. I don't have to make a conscious decision to make my heart beat. Then there are the things that can go either way (e.g., breathing). Thoughts are analogous: some are conscious - and some subconscious. It doesn't make them less "thought."

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    It points to there being some sort of relationship between the brain and the mind. It says nothing about which one is primary.
    On this we disagree. The evidence clearly shows (but does not yet definitively prove) that brain produces and affects mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    A mental unit that is imbued with semantic content, perhaps?
    Ahh... we may be getting to the heart of our disagreement. "Semantic" is a reference to language - so you appear to be limiting "thought" to activities of the brain that are essentially "silent/internal sentences." In other words, the things a telepath might "listen in on." That suggests that the notion of "subconscious thought" might be an oxymoron to you.

    And that got me chasing the dictionary (amazing how much this site has me doing that), and I think I am going to agree with you and reverse myself. The common definition of "thought" is more aligned with the semantic notion you propose...and less with my wider meaning. My wider use is probably the source of our disagreement on thought = mind. I'm not sure where it gets us, but I retract that statement, and accept your distinctions between thought, will, focus, and experience as different aspects of the mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    (I agree. I also can't be bothered to come up with any more "witty" rejoinders, so I think the previous one will be my last one )
    I understand completely. I was finding it a challenge to continually provide witty responses to an unarmed opponent...


    (ok...I did NOT just say that...it was my evil twin.... )
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

    I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. Frederick Douglas

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