Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Dawkins: Maybe the hard problem of consciousness can never be solved

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In an interview with John Horgan at Scientific American:

Horgan: Is consciousness a scientifically tractable problem? Do you favor any current approaches and theories?
Dawkins: It certainly isn’t tractable by me. At times I find myself inspired by the confidence of my friend Daniel Dennett. At other times I lean towards his fellow philosopher Colin McGinn’s pessimism: the view that the human mind is flatly incapable of understanding its own consciousness. Our brains evolved to understand how to survive in a hunter–gatherer way of life on the African savanna—understand the behavior of an extremely narrow range of medium-sized objects travelling at medium velocities. It is therefore a wonder, as [cognitive scientist] Steven Pinker has pointed out, that our brains have advanced to the heights of relativity and quantum mechanics. Maybe this should give us Dennettian confidence. Or maybe the “hard problem” of consciousness is forever beyond us, just as calculus is forever beyond the mentality of a chimpanzee. More.

It’s a real breakthrough that such people even see the problem. So many funded small minds don’t and continue to burble up trivia. It does their cause no good, and then other small minds invent tricks or punishments to try to force people to believe apart from evidence.

See also: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

and

Richard Dawkins on the reproducibility crisis in science

24 Replies to “Dawkins: Maybe the hard problem of consciousness can never be solved

  1. 1
    ichisan says:

    It should be obvious to anyone with a brain half the size of Dawkins’ hunter/gatherer brain that consciousness cannot be solved if materialism is assumed. It is really not that hard to prove to oneself that we have a supernatural soul.

  2. 2
    EugeneS says:

    Well, it does him credit. Honesty is respectable.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    I am amazed — given that Dawkins and Elizabeth Liddle are both English — that he has not heard from her that we are on the very cusp of solving the hard problem — “it’s all feedback loopy and stuff” is a summary of her argument. So there you go.

  4. 4
    john_a_designer says:

    Naturalists and materialists could prove their beliefs about mind and consciousness (that it’s all reducible to some kind of mindless physical process) to be true by designing then building a computer that is actually and demonstrably conscious– that is, it doesn’t simply mimic consciousness. Is that possible? How do we even know it’s possible or impossible if it has never been proven?

    As a theist I admit my beliefs about mind, consciousness, soul and spirit are faith based. Is the atheist-materialist willing to concede the same about his beliefs?

  5. 5
    ET says:

    It’s only a hard problem if you try to solve it from a materialistic framework. But from a materialist’s perspective there is always the magic of emergence. Consciousness just emerges from the interactions of the mass of firing neurons. Just like a magnetic field emerges when you wrap a wire around an iron nail and attach the wire to a battery.

    To the problem of not being able to synthesize life “they” just say there must have been emergent properties that were missed in the process.

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    Yes. I think that now physics has come to such a grinding halt with our quantum-level understanding* of matter (not least, its expressly non-local aspect), that it really does all come down to the old atheist jibe : religion is just wishful thinking.

    Only trouble for the atheist, however, is that it begs the the question as to why, when classical reductionist, mechanistic physics has come to the end of its competence, at the macro and macro extremes, would not the God that Christians believe in, have both made the world at this deeper level (an otherwise metaphysical enigma) the way it is, and inspired his devotees with that ‘wishful thinking’ that corresponds with the way it is ? Why should the truth be cold, hard, ugly, not to be wished for not to be hoped for, undesirable ? In fact, we know that even hard, solid matter is a dynamic maelstrom of particles and energy. And that’s just the bedrock of truth of matter.

    It started with God teaching us the mindset that would lead us on the path of scientific discovery, namely, that He made the world, his Creation, good, and man in his own image – as some of us have learnt from this website.

    It initially allowed the malign and not too intellectually sharp, to fancy that the ‘white race’ were congenitally intellectually superior; and has now shown such racists to be ‘dummies’ of the first water, in the light, in particular, of the greatly-gifted people with a worldly-wise intelligence, of China and India, to name but two. Personally, I suspect that the sub-Saharan Africans will one day, before too long, be the most egregious luminaries of the intellectual firmament. They already I believe have produced many many brilliant professionals in the US, in medicine, but, doubtless, many other fields.

    However, finally we can see that, with his very rough, schadenfreudian sense of humour, God has disposed his providence so that the atheists who sought to mock Him and his devotees with accusations that the latter believe in unicorns and pink pixies, themselves have been reduced to an almost catatonic conjecture, posing as a theory, to the effect that said unicorns and pink pixies might actually exist in a multiworld (or is it ‘many worlds’) a meta-universe composed of an infinite number of worlds, exhibiting characteristics of every conceivable kind, in endlessly-proliferating permutations.

    *Without the least hint of modesty, I use the word, ‘our’, here, in an extremely generic sense.

  7. 7
    EricMH says:

    Self consciousness cannot have a material explanation by definition since no material thing can contain itself.

  8. 8
    News says:

    Naturalist explanations of consciousness are attempts to explain it away. That is what gives them their ridiculous quality. People consciously work to explain away consciousness. That is not the same thing as studying it but they have no alternative.

  9. 9
    ichisan says:

    @News:

    Naturalist explanations of consciousness are attempts to explain it away.

    I agree although I have a slight problem with the expression “naturalist explanations of consciousness”. I prefer to use “materialist explanations of consciousness” because there is nothing unnatural about consciousness.

  10. 10
    john_a_designer says:

    If you don’t know how to create consciousness you can’t really explain it.

  11. 11
    EricMH says:

    Yes, that is the naturalist approach to all hard problems, define them away. Problem of free will? It’s an illusion. Problem of consciousness? It’s an illusion.

    I wish I could have used this approach in calculus or when debugging my code. Cannot prove this identity? It’s made up. Cannot figure out the bug? It’s a feature.

  12. 12
    J-Mac says:

    I have to admit that I completely do not understand why most theists automatically combine consciousness with a soul…

    Consciousness can still be an immaterial product of God/ID without involving dualism…If quantum consciousness theory is true, and conscious experience is created in by microtubules in brain neurons, it is very unlikely it can be explained by any materialistic/naturalistic means…

    Furthermore, the idea of eternal soul seem to have originated in Greek Mythology and Babylon as well as in ancient Egypt from among pagan beliefs that later infiltrated Christian teachings…

    Close analysis of the original scriptures written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages is very difficult even for scholars. However, I have come to the conclusion that if the teaching of the eternal soul is true, then animals have souls too…Also the teaching of eternal soul is inconsistent because many scriptures suggest that souls either died or will die…so if the teaching of a soul is true then the teaching of the eternal soul is definitely not…and so on…

    The most confusing facts about the teaching of a soul (eternal or not) is the act of creation of Adam and Eve as well as the forbidden apple/fruit issue…

    1. There is nowhere in any scriptures in any language even a hint that Adam and Eve where given a soul. No way!

    2. If Adam and Eve had been given eternal souls by God, why didn’t God tell them that, if they were to eat the forbidden apple, their souls would be tormented forever and ever in hell? Instead God told them that they would die or return to dust as they were made from dust and not some cosmic entity such as a soul…

    How would that be fair to Adam and Eve if God hadn’t told them about the full consequences of their disobedience? If that were true, then I’m not surprised that many people have a hard time believing in just God…

  13. 13
    J-Mac says:

    There is a third possibility…

    Consciousness is created or made of or by dark energy…

    While nobody knows what dark energy is, it is known that 74% of the universe consists of it…plus 22% of dark matter, which means we have no idea what 96% of the universe is made of…

    However, we do know what these unknowns can do (dark matter and energy are called dark because they have not been detected yet). However, dark matter provides stability for the spinning galaxies keeping them intact…

    Dark energy is responsible for the expansion and the accelerations of the universe… This means that time and space are constantly created by the expansion of the universe that the dark energy is the cause of…

    Scientists now can’t deny that the expansion and the acceleration of the universe is beyond mind-boggling fine-tuned for life…even an infinitesimal change one way or the other in the cosmological constant and there would be no universe, no life, and definitely no humans and no consciousness…

    Since dark energy permeates time and space, it also permeates us; our brains, neurons and our memory…

    Can it permeated our consciousness?

    What’s consciousness?

    When are we conscious?

    What is the state of being aware or being conscious?

    I’m often aware of the fact that I’m conscious…but only for a moment…as my being aware of being conscious becomes the past and my conscious experience moves ever slightly to the future…
    My conscious experience becomes a memory…fading with the passage of time…that is if time is real…

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    J-Mac @ 14

    Dark energy is responsible for the expansion and the accelerations of the universe… This means that time and space are constantly created by the expansion of the universe that the dark energy is the cause of…

    Scientists now can’t deny that the expansion and the acceleration of the universe is beyond mind-boggling fine-tuned for life…even an infinitesimal change one way or the other in the cosmological constant and there would be no universe, no life, and definitely no humans and no consciousness…

    If the Universe continues to expand at an ever-accelerating rate, possibly due to “dark energy”, then eventually the galaxies and stars and planets will become so far distant from each other that the sky will go dark and life will die out. How is that fine-tuned for life?

  15. 15
    kurx78 says:

    You are alive, that’s proof enough… unless you believe in miracles…. naturalistic miracles

  16. 16
    ichisan says:

    @J-Mac: There is a third possibility…

    Consciousness is created or made of or by dark energy…

    Wow. And I thought I was the fruitcake. 🙂

    While nobody knows what dark energy is, it is known that 74% of the universe consists of it…plus 22% of dark matter, which means we have no idea what 96% of the universe is made of…

    It is not known that the universe consists of dark matter. It’s pure conjecture.

  17. 17
    ichisan says:

    Everything you see in front of you is supernatural. It’s a creation of your spirit. Your spirit converts the neuronal spikes entering the visual cortex into the fabulous 3-D vista that you think exists in front of you. The colors that you see, the flavors that you taste, the odors that you smell and the sounds that you hear are all creations of your spirit. None of these things exists in the physical universe. They are all supernatural. We are not animals or machines. We are Gods.

  18. 18
    J-Mac says:

    Seversky @15

    If the Universe continues to expand at an ever-accelerating rate, possibly due to “dark energy”, then eventually the galaxies and stars and planets will become so far distant from each other that the sky will go dark and life will die out. How is that fine-tuned for life?

    I don’t think you understand the expansion of the universe…The planets and stars are firmly clustered together forming galaxies that are not moving through space, they are moving in space, because space is also moving and is being created endlessly possibly into infinity…

    So, life is not endangered and neither the existence of the universe…

  19. 19
    J-Mac says:

    ichisan @17

    What makes the inanimate matter animate? Spare your gut-feelings, wild assumptions and faith based on scriptures nobody has seen and just focus on logical scientific explanation that makes sense…What makes the nonliving matter alive? What energizes matter to become alive?

    It is not known that the universe consists of dark matter. It’s pure conjecture.

    I should have ignored you after this comment…

  20. 20
    J-Mac says:

    ichisan @18

    We are Gods.

    You’ve already passed the stage of fruitcake…

    You don’t have to answer 17.

    Good bye!

  21. 21
    cmow says:

    “You’re a fruitcake”

    Seven minutes later:

    “We are Gods.”

    Heh…

    I think I read something related to this once…if I recall, the Christmas holiday, celebrating Jesus’ birth, co-opts an earlier pagan festival celebrating the Fruitcake god. This is why the tradition of giving fruitcakes as Christmas gifts remains to this day.

  22. 22
    J-Mac says:

    cmow @22

    I think I read something related to this once…if I recall, the Christmas holiday, celebrating Jesus’ birth, co-opts an earlier pagan festival celebrating the Fruitcake god. This is why the tradition of giving fruitcakes as Christmas gifts remains to this day.

    What are you insinuating? That Christians are celebrating Jesus birth on the day of pagan festival or on the wrong day all together???

  23. 23
    ichisan says:

    @cmow:

    “You’re a fruitcake”

    Seven minutes later:

    “We are Gods.”

    Heh…

    I think I read something related to this once…if I recall, the Christmas holiday, celebrating Jesus’ birth, co-opts an earlier pagan festival celebrating the Fruitcake god. This is why the tradition of giving fruitcakes as Christmas gifts remains to this day.

    LOL. This is funny. But humor aside, Jesus himself told us that we, humans, are gods.

    John 10:34: Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?

    He was quoting from David:

    Psalm 82:6: I said, “You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.”

    The word used by David was “Elohim” which is a plural Hebrew word translated “Gods” and sometimes erroneously “God”. It is the same word used in the expression “Yahweh Elohim” to refer to God in the old testament. Elohim is a plural word meaning that Yahweh is many.

  24. 24
    Mung says:

    We are fruitcake gods!

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