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More scientists doubt materialism explains consciousness

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From LiveScience:

Neuroscientists and many philosophers have typically planted themselves firmly on the materialist side. But a growing number of scientists now believe that materialism cannot wholly explain the sense of “I am” that undergirds consciousness, Kuhn told the audience.

One of those scientists is Christof Koch, the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. At the event, he described a relatively recent formulation of consciousness called the integrated information theory. The idea, put forward by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientist and psychiatrist Giulio Tononi, argues that consciousness resides in an as-yet-unknown space in the universe.

Integrated information theory measures consciousness by a metric, called phi, which essentially translates to how much power over itself a being or object has.

“If a system has causal power upon itself, like the brain does, then it feels like something. If you have a lot of causal power upon yourself, then it feels like a lot to be you,” Koch said.

The new theory implies a radical disconnect between intelligence and consciousness, Koch said. More.

That’s a good thing. There are only so many times that one can hit one’s head against a brick wall before real harm sets in. You know, perceptronium (consciousness is a form of matter) or radical naturalism (consciousness as illusion). Or heck, even rocks have minds. A smart high-schooler can convincingly refute this stuff, which is not overall a good sign.

A smart high-schooler can convincingly refute this stuff, which is not overall a good sign.

Whatever the merits of Koch’s theory, or Tonioni’s, they try to reduce the nonsense quotient (NQ) and deal with the relationship between consciousness and information.

Note: “The new theory implies a radical disconnect between intelligence and consciousness, Koch said.” That makes a lot of sense because consciousness isn’t principally about intelligence anyway, even though some intelligence would seem to be necessary for it to function.

Consciousness is subjectivity, the sense that an experience is happening to oneself. In that minimal self sense, many animals have consciousness.

The discussion veers off to whether artificial intelligences can evolve into selves; some interesting points.

See also: Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain? (No)

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

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

A look at information theory

and

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

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18 Replies to “More scientists doubt materialism explains consciousness

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Or you can go the Elizabeth Liddle route. “We are on the verge of solving the consciousness problem. It is all feedback loopy and stuff.”

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Barry:

    Or you can go the Elizabeth Liddle route. “We are on the verge of solving the consciousness problem. It is all feedback loopy and stuff.”

    LOL. Materialists are the most absurdly stupid people on earth. All the more so given that they fancy themselves as the most intelligent people on earth. Loopy indeed.

  3. 3
    jimmontg says:

    The whole time materialists claim it’s all just molecules bumping around they walk around with a sense of eternity planted in their hearts. Deep down somewhere inside is the feeling of I’m going to live forever and I know I’m not going to. They just dismiss it and scoff at eternity. It just doesn’t mean anything to them, but the smart ones know there isn’t any real proof of the nonexistence of God. What they really do is ignore it.

  4. 4
    GaryGaulin says:

    Scientists also doubt that feminism explains gravity. But for some reason news services never report that.

  5. 5
    ppolish says:

    “Scientists also doubt that feminism explains gravity.”

    Gary, can you link to a few of those Scientists expressing that view?

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    Or you can go the Elizabeth Liddle route.

    Consciousness is an epiphenomenon of noise.

  7. 7
    groovamos says:

    Y’all crack me up. It wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t true.

    I can hardly get enough of these people thinking that being on their carefully, and (supposedly) logically constructed Oblivion Express makes them so special and bright. It makes my days so much more fun.

  8. 8
    GaryGaulin says:

    ppolish asks:

    Gary, can you link to a few of those Scientists expressing that view?

    I do not know any scientists who believe that “feminism explains gravity”.

    I also do not know any scientists who believe that “materialism explains consciousness”. But can you link to a few of those for me? According to the article there should be many scientists who believe that consciousness is caused by a process known as “materialism”.

  9. 9
    JDH says:

    What really bothers me is not :

    — That there exists a cadre of absurd materialists who will tell you that they have definitely concluded that they don’t have free will, or some other hopelessly self contradictory statement.

    These fools only bother me because:

    What really bothers me is the poor people who are robbed of seeking and discovering God because they lack the intellectual courage to denounce the absurd conclusions of this “educated” class that rules the intellectual life of our universities.

  10. 10
    ppolish says:

    Gary, if you “do not know any scientists who believe that “materialism explains consciousness”” then you do not know modern Science. “Everything is Atoms, All Else is Woo” is a common belief among modern Scientists. Emphasis on “everything”.

    Dick Feynman (one of my all time favorite agnostic scientists (heck I feel ok calling him “Dick”) famously said:

    “all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed together.”

    All things. And things are all that are. No woo! That is a common, but decreasingly common, belief amongst modern scientists. Read Dembski’s “Being as Communion” for a profound takedown of this bogus scientific belief. Plenty of links given in that book.

  11. 11
    GaryGaulin says:

    I see “modern Science” still heading towards what the ID movement is after too. Part of what makes that easy is it NOT coming from the Discovery Institute, it’s computer models and theory for public school educators who need to know what is within limits of science possible.

    The “materialism” issue is something that easily puzzles the majority of scientists who know little or nothing about it. In the 60’s it was someone with a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort to be most important. Later it became redefined but those who know little or anything about the long complicated ID debate will only be puzzled how that could be, when the wealth and possessions is normally from staying out of science as a profession.

    The “_ism” stereotypes might make sense to you but time is making them relatively obscure. The theory I defend has none of that in it. Demonizing is not allowed. The tactic only destroys scientific credibility with all those who are being demonized by that.

  12. 12
    Splatter says:

    I am not sure what you mean Gary. Philosophical materialism is a type of metaphysics. “Materialism” meaning consumerism etc. is a kind of value system. I don’t think people are likely to confuse the two in the context of the consciousness debate. I think both (all?) sides of the argument would at least agree broadly on the meaning of the post.

  13. 13
    GaryGaulin says:

    Splatter, scientists/engineers are normally too busy with their science related work to care about any of that. Metaphysics is for someone more into religion.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    GG, philosophy is foundational to all knowledge, and the most dangerous metaphysics is that which has become entrenched as ideology and is unexamined. As the ghosts of what, 200 millions from the century just past moan out. So, one would be well advised to address worldviews, epistemological and ethical foundations as well as the underlying logic of any significant view. On each of these evolutionary materialist scientism comes up woefully short. I add that Science in Society, should join Engineering in Society as mandatory courses for those embarking on careers, with emphasis on ethics and linked issues with case studies of how things can and do go drastically wrong not just boosterism. A little exposure to the strengths and weaknesses of scientific reasoning i/l/o the issues of empirically grounded knowledge claims, would also help. A glance or two at the issues of the gap between simulation models and reality — read here both mathematical and computational modelling — would not hurt either. As for those embarking on being sci-tech etc educators, oh boy. KF

  15. 15
    GaryGaulin says:

    KF, I am completely separating science from philosophy. What remains is the essence of “science”. This is in part made possble by the “theory of intelligent design” where it very much tests how functional our understanding of what a “theory” even is.

    Things work out that the only thing the ID movement needs is the Dinosaur Train simple definition for a hypothesis (an idea you can test) and no philosophy needed way of defining theories (explain how something works or happened).

    With all said the “scientific method” is just how infants reason how things work or happened. The “scientific method” has the same features of the IA model in the theory that has RAM, Guess, Confidence in Control of the result. A self-learning (intelligent) system but for a collective intelligence of arguing human brains all seeking knowledge of how things worked or happened. The “scientific method” in turn becomes best explained by the Theory of Intelligent Design too. It is that way found to be just another self-similar level that works like our brain, cells and our genomic intelligence levels. A never before possible way of understanding what “science” boils down to. You only have to get used to a philosophy free cognitive science approach.

    How could someone like you KF ask for better than that?

  16. 16
  17. 17
    Splatter says:

    No Gary, materialism is a philosophical position. That’s just life. I’m not sure what being a scientist or engineer (or not) and what these professionals are busy with has to do with anything. An artist may be too busy to care about the chemistry of her paints. But chemistry is real and affects her work. There is nothing heroic about pretending a discipline doesn’t exist.

  18. 18
    GaryGaulin says:

    Splatter:

    No Gary, materialism is a philosophical position.

    With all considered: being a philosophical position is all the more reason to keep it OUT of science.

    Generalizations like that just lead to stone throwing arguments that totally ignore the scientific models and theory you and others are supposed to be working on.

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