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Rob Sheldon: If biological mechanisms accounted for consciousness, we could breed talking mice

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From physicist Rob Sheldon, our physics colour commentator, on what’s wrong with the latest new theory of consciousness. That’s the one by Anil Seth that walloped through here quite recently, namely,

Researcher: Never mind the “hard problem of consciousness”: The real one is… “Our experiences of being and having a body are ‘controlled hallucinations’ of a very distinctive kind”

Sheldon:

The key point in this article is in this sentence:

But there is an alternative, which I like to call the real problem: how to account for the various properties of consciousness in terms of biological mechanisms; without pretending it doesn’t exist (easy problem) and without worrying too much about explaining its existence in the first place (hard problem).

Restating it, they want to use materialistic biological metrics to describe consciousness without philosophical definitions.

You know, stick a rock in a maze and count how long it takes to solve it. Stick a mouse in a maze, and count the seconds to solve it. Describe the difference as “consciousness metric”. Now replace the maze with a mirror, and see if the rock knows smacks into the mirror or avoids it. Do the same for a mouse. Measure the change in acceleration (force divided by time), and call that a “mirror metric”. Etc.

You will quickly find that all that such “pragmatic” approaches really do is convert explicit definitions into implicit ones that are harder to root out.

If such pragmatic or common sense approaches worked, we would be breeding talking mice or at least programming artificially intelligent computers by now.

Or maybe even conscious rocks?

See also: Psychology Today: Latest new theory of consciousness A different one from the above.

Rocks have minds?

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

and

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

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3 Replies to “Rob Sheldon: If biological mechanisms accounted for consciousness, we could breed talking mice

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    The hard problem, a few notes:

    David Chalmers is semi-famous for getting the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness across to lay people in a very easy to understand manner:

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Descartes, Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    Simply put, the hard problem of consciousness is subjective conscious experience. i.e. For the body to send a signal of pain and to subjectively experience the pain are two vastly different things.

    Here is a cartoon that gets the point across very clearly

    Philosophical Zombies – cartoon
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/11

    Daniel Dennett, an atheist, puts the insurmountable problem for material explanations like this,,,

    “(Daniel) Dennett concludes, ‘nobody is conscious … we are all zombies’.”
    J.W. SCHOOLER & C.A. SCHREIBER – Experience, Meta-consciousness, and the Paradox of Introspection – 2004
    https://www.scribd.com/document/183053947/Experience-Meta-consciousness-and-the-Paradox-of-Introspection

    And there you have it folks, absolute proof that when you deny the reality of your own mind you have in fact lost your mind! 🙂

    That atheists have no clue how subjective conscious experience can possibly ’emerge’ from a material basis is made clear in the following quotes:

    ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    David Barash – Materialist/Atheist – evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the ­University of Washington

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    “Every day we recall the past, perceive the present and imagine the future. How do our brains accomplish these feats? It’s safe to say that nobody really knows.”
    Sebastian Seung – Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. Regardless of our knowledge of the structure of the brain, no one has any idea how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience.”
    Jerry Fodor – Rutgers University philosopher

    “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.”
    Roger Sperry – Nobel neurophysiologist

    “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.”
    Eugene Wigner – Nobel prize-winner in Quantum Mechanics

    “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”
    Nick Herbert – physicist

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    Larry Dossey – Physician and author

    Of related note to subjective conscious experience, it is interesting to note that “quantum theory entails an irreducible subjective element in its conceptual basis”:

    “quantum theory entails an irreducible subjective element in its conceptual basis. In contrast, the theory of relativity when fully exploited, is based on a totally objective view.”
    Sachs – On The Comparison Of Quantum and Relativity Theories – 1986

    “We wish to measure a temperature.,,,
    But in any case, no matter how far we calculate — to the mercury vessel, to the scale of the thermometer, to the retina, or into the brain, at some time we must say: and this is perceived by the observer. That is, we must always divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer.”
    John von Neumann – 1903-1957 – The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, pp.418-21 – 1955

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
    Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”;

    In fact, the subjective conscious experience of ‘the now’, as understood by leading philosophers at the time, played a large role in denying Einstein a Nobel prize for his newly discovered ‘physical time of relativity’

    Einstein vs. “The Now” of Philosophers and Quantum Mechanics – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwyHUxoKWNM&index=3&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5

    There are many lines of evidence from quantum mechanics, contrary to what Einstein thought possible for experimental physics, indicating that consciousness must precede material reality:

    A Short Survey Of Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness
    Excerpt: Putting all the lines of evidence together the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:
    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uLcJUgLm1vwFyjwcbwuYP0bK6k8mXy-of990HudzduI/edit

    Here is one of my favorite lines of evidence indicating that consciousness must precede material reality:

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    “Reality is in the observations, not in the electron.”
    – Paul Davies

    As well, a strong case can be made that the consciousness that must precede material reality must possess infinite Intelligence in order to have the causal adequacy to ‘collapse the wave function’

    Double Slit, Quantum-Electrodynamics, and Christian Theism – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1127450170601248/?type=2&theater

    Verse and Music:

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

    On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rayr0MwKwo8

  2. 2
    rvb8 says:

    Is Sheldon saying mice aren’t conscious, or that rocks are less conscious?

    At what point do clueless analogies become self parody?

    The mouse is conscious, it shows this by an interpretation of its environment, and an avoidance of things that can harm it; the rock doesn’t.

    Biological sytems evolve to survive, avoid harm, and perpetuate; rocks don’t.

    If this is the level of ID thought at present, one must ask the question; ‘What fertile fields of research does this thinking lead to?’

    I understand scientists trying to uncover the mechanisms within the brain that make you, you. What I don’t understand is the ID theory of trying to cover this up!

    Actually the last sentence of the post above explains everything neatly; “On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand.“

    Thanks BA explicit religion is always welcome and telling on this ‘science’ site!

  3. 3
    Origenes says:

    rvb8: The mouse is conscious, …

    – What is, under materialism, “the mouse”? If by “the mouse” you are referring to a conglomeration of particles, then what is the ontological difference with a rock? In what sense is it prudent to refer to a conglomeration of particles as one thing?
    – What do you mean by “conscious”? Self-awareness?

    rvb8: … it shows this by an interpretation of its environment, and an avoidance of things that can harm it; the rock doesn’t.

    These are the two criteria of being conscious?

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