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Science as we know it can't explain consciousness – but a revolution is coming

Panpsychism

Panpsychism is the view that consciousness is a fundamental quality of the physical world. The "new" panpsychism is void of the mystical connotations of previous forms of the view. It describes matter from two perspectives.

  • Physical science describes matter "from the outside" in terms of its behavior.
  • Matter "from the inside" comprises of forms of consciousness.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Science as we know it can't explain consciousness – but a revolution is coming

Science as we know it can't explain consciousness – but a revolution is coming

https://theconversation.com/science-as-we-know-it-cant-explain-consciousness-but-a-revolution-is-coming-126143

theconversation.com

7

Key Ideas

The mystery of consciousness

We have made advances in understanding how the brain works and how it affects human behavior. But no one is able to explain how all this results in feelings, emotions, and experiences.

There is a view that conventional scientific methods will never be able to answer these questions. But an alternative view may provide some insight that may be able to give an understanding.

Consciousness: A unique scientific problem

For much of the 20th century, consciousness was not a serious topic for "serious science." That has changed. The problem of consciousness is a scientific dilemma.

For one, consciousness is unobservable. We know consciousness exists through our immediate awareness of our own feelings and experiences. But you can't look in the head of someone else to see their feelings and experiences.

Using observation for an unobservable issue

When we are dealing with data, we can do experiments to test whether what we observe matches the hypothesis. But we are dealing with the unobservable data of consciousness.

The best scientists can do is to correlate unobservable experiences with observable processes. For example, the feeling of hunger is associated with visible activity in the brain's hypothalamus.

But collecting correlations does not explain why conscious experiences correspond with brain activity.

The wrong framework for understanding consciousness

We should not be surprised that our standard scientific method struggles to deal with consciousness. Modern science was designed to exclude consciousness.

Galileo Galilei, the father of modern science, wanted a purely quantitative science of the physical world, and he proposed that qualities such as colors and smells were outside the domain of science.

As long as we work within this framework, we can only establish a correlation without the ability to provide an explanation.

Mind is matter

The starting point of philosopher Bertrand Rusell and scientist Arthur Eddington was that physical science doesn't really explain what matter it.

Physics is confined to tell us about the behavior of matter. It can't tell us about the intrinsic nature of matter - what matter is in and of itself. For example, saying that matter has mass and charge, is explaining the behavior of matter.

Panpsychism

Panpsychism is the view that consciousness is a fundamental quality of the physical world. The "new" panpsychism is void of the mystical connotations of previous forms of the view. It describes matter from two perspectives.

  • Physical science describes matter "from the outside" in terms of its behavior.
  • Matter "from the inside" comprises of forms of consciousness.

Panpsychism: the most straightforward consciousness theory

Panpsychism is the most straightforward theory of how consciousness fits into our scientific story. The view that mind is matter means that even elementary particles show necessary forms of consciousness.

Consciousness can vary in complexity. The conscious experience of a horse is less than a person. The conscious experience of a rabbit is less than a horse. As organisms become simpler, at a point, consciousness suddenly switches off, or maybe it just fades but never disappears completely.

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Qualia: Experiencing Sensations

Qualia relates to the raw sensations of experience, like colours, smells, sounds.

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The mind, with all its feelings and experiences, exists as a spiritual phenomenon and controls the body like a drone pilot controls the drone. This view is known as Dualism.

The Materialist Way

Science has done a great job observing, dissecting and manipulating physical materials (matter) and seems to think the materialist method is the best way to go for the mysteries of the brain. It does not take a good view of the dualism theory, where the soul (residing in our brain) controls the body.

The problem is that by only studying the matter, science has always excluded and neglected consciousness.

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Late philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that there are bound to be thoughts we are unable to think. Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn claimed that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" about particular problems. Just as animals will never understand prime numbers, so human brains are unable to consider some of the world's wonders.

Mysterians and pessimism

Mysterians present the question of cognitive limits in fixed terms: either we can solve a problem, or we will never be able to.

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Quantum Theory had a similar ‘uh oh’ moment when it was found that the behaviour of atomic level particles changes when we (a conscious observer) are looking at it, or not. This is known as the Observer Effect.

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Changes in consciousness can result in changes in perception, thinking, and interpretations of the world.

  • Some different states of consciousness include dreams, hallucinations, hypnosis, meditation, sleep, and states induce by psychoactive drugs.
  • Altered levels of consciousness can occur and may be caused by medical or mental conditions that change awareness, e.g., coma, confusion, delirium, disorientation, lethargy, and stupor.
Changes in Consciousness

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If you think you are experiencing changes in consciousness, talk to your doctor.

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Neuronal Correlates of Consciousness (NCC)

The whole brain can be considered an NCC because it generates experience continually.

  • When parts of the cerebellum, the "little brain" underneath the back of the brain, are lost to a stroke or otherwise, patients may lose the ability to play the piano, for example.  But they never lose any aspect of their consciousness. This is because the cerebellum is almost wholly a feed-forward circuit. There are no complex feedback loops.
  • The spinal cord and the cerebellum are not enough to create consciousness. Available evidence suggests neocortical tissue in generating feelings.
  • The next stages of processing are the broad set of cortical regions, collectively known as the posterior hot zone, that gives rise to conscious perception. In clinical sources of causal evidence, stimulating the posterior hot zone can trigger a diversity of distinct sensations and feelings.
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Ignoring The Problem

Science has been trying to ignore the problem of consciousness for a long time.

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  • This Cartesian dualism remained the assumption into the 18th century. But it was unacceptable to the secular scientist that took the position that only physical things exist.
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