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Templeton is sponsoring a historic type of contest in the quest to understand consciousness

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The two theories to be tested pit “information processing” against “causal power” as a model of consciousness. One side must admit it is wrong:

Stanislas Dehaene/Henning (CC-BY-2.0)

Consciousness, even as a concept, is much more slippery than gravity but these two prominent theories have been chosen as at least suitable for testing, starting this fall:

● Global Workspace Theory (GWT), defended by Stanislas Dehaene of the Collège de France in Paris: “theory of Bernard Joseph Baars that suggests that consciousness involves the global distribution of focal information to many parts of the brain.” – Pam N., “Global Workspace Theory,” Psychology Dictionary


● Integrated Information Theory (IIT), defended by Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin in Madison: “Initially proposed by Giulio Tononi in 2004, it claims that consciousness is identical to a certain kind of information, the realization of which requires physical, not merely functional, integration, and which can be measured mathematically according to the phi metric.” – Francis Fallon, Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The two theories can be compared because they make different predictions as to which part of the brain will become active when a person becomes aware of an image.

Quest for consciousness: A historic quest is announced” at Mind Matters News

We are sure that, in reality, anyone really attached to the losing theory will find wiggle room. But never mind. The point is, there is something to test.

This sure beats: Consciousness is an evolved illusion; your coffee mug is conscious; consciousness is a material thing; electrons are conscious No wonder consciousness studies have been described in Chronicle of Higher Education as “bizarre.” Maybe not so much now.

Key concepts in a non-materialist approach to consciousness

An Oxford neuroscientist explains
mind vs. brain (Michael Egnor) Sharon Dirckx explains the fallacies of materialism and the logical and scientific strengths of dualism

Did consciousness “evolve”? (Michael Egnor) One neuroscientist doesn’t seem to understand the problems the idea raises

Four researchers whose work sheds light on the reality of the mind The brain can be cut in half, but the intellect and will cannot, says Michael Egnor. The intellect and will are metaphysically simple


No materialist theory of consciousness is plausible (Eric Holloway) All such theories either deny the very thing they are trying to explain, result in absurd scenarios, or end up requiring an immaterial intervention

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3 Replies to “Templeton is sponsoring a historic type of contest in the quest to understand consciousness

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    EricMH says:

    Seems the most relevant test is whether consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon on physical processes, or exerts its own causality. The fact we consciously choose to move our body around proves the latter is true. If we want to bring technology into the picture, then brain computer interfaces also demonstrate consciousness is a causal force, because by concentrating on certain outcomes a user can control a mechanical device. Plus, the research in this area is very practical and is not just a bunch of Deepak Chopra quantum consciousness woo.

    Bigger picture, Templeton foundation seems to not understand that any science and faith projects need to be eminently practical to make a dent in the pragmatic STEM culture. Engineer and science types really scorn any research that seems to focused on ideological debates without any practical significance. Makes it seem like everyone is arguing about nothing. STEM drives the debate since the rest of academia is prone to STEM envy since STEM drives the research dollars. It’s the original reason we are in this mess b/c Francis Bacon decided to ignore teleological causality because it was mostly useless scholastic speculation. If we want to reintroduce teleology we need to make the case for its usefulness. This is also the source of the current dissatisfaction with the ID movement, since it seems like the Discovery Institute is more focused on the culture wars than it is on doing actual science.

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    AaronS1978 says:

    So I know quite a bit about I IT and I looked into global workspace quite a bit as well I do not see how these theories can compete with one another there almost entirely different

    One almost exclusively explains the stream of consciousness which is global workspace while the other tries to explain the entirety of conscious experience

    Furthermore none of them really answer the question of epiphenomenology. The only one that attempts to do that is I IT

    My prediction is they’re both right did anybody think that they might both be right

    The other problem is that I have with Epiphenomenalism Is the fact that the brains knowledge of itself is in it self self refuting

    The sheer memorization and recording of your own personal existence and knowledge of oneself changes its own brain state

    You can try to say that this is not a legitimate argument but anybody that has gone into a mind game with them selves knows that this is a very real argument that these types of mind games even in psychology can actually change the brain state and Neural patterning in your brain as well as the chemical state in your brain

    The fact that you were aware of being aware

    And your brain changes because of it

    Personally I hope I IT remains on top there was a lot of promise and it is one of the most open of the theories it does put the power of consciousness into its own hands if they end up being wrong somehow that means all of the research that they’ve done up to this point somehow managed to be wrong

    The same goes for the other one but the problem is they both can explain one another and be included they both can be right because they both kind of explain different things different aspects of the mind so it honestly is hard for me to see how this competition is going to be useful or why they would agree to it

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