From David Oakley and Peter Halligan at The Conversation:
If the experience of consciousness does not confer any particular advantage, it’s not clear what its purpose is. But as a passive accompaniment to non-conscious processes, we don’t think that the phenomenon of personal awareness has a purpose, in much the same way that rainbows do not. Rainbows simply result from the reflection, refraction and dispersion of sunlight through water droplets – none of which serves any particular purpose.
Our conclusions also raise questions about the notions of free will and personal responsibility. If our personal awareness does not control the contents of the personal narrative which reflects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions and decisions, then perhaps we should not be held responsible for them.
In response to this, we argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society. As such, they are built into the way we see and understand ourselves as individuals, and as a species. Because of this, they are represented within the non-conscious processes that create our personal narratives, and in the way we communicate those narratives to others.
Just because consciousness has been placed in the passenger seat, does not mean we need to dispense with important everyday notions such as free will and personal responsibility. In fact, they are embedded in the workings of our non-conscious brain systems. They have a powerful purpose in society and have a deep impact on the way we understand ourselves.More.
Stripped of academic politeness, Oakley and Halligan are saying that, in their view, consciousness is a beautiful evolved illusion. Though they don’t quite say it, consciousness is fair game for manipulation by power-hungry technocrats’ “important everyday notions.” Let’s see if this theme grows: Evolutionary biologist: Humans evolved to need coercion.
Note: Acquiring the authority to try to manipulate consciousness would largely relieve technocrats of any imputed fault for not understanding it. And everyone has noticed that they don’t.
See also: Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself
Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.