In “You don’t really exist, do you?” (December 10, 2011), at his blog Rationally Speaking, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers reasons to reject the materialist claim that our consciousness is an illusion:
For some time I have been noticing the emergence of a strange trinity of beliefs among my fellow skeptics and freethinkers: an increasing number of them, it seems, don’t believe that they can make decisions (the free will debate), don’t believe that they have moral responsibility (because they don’t have free will, or because morality is relative — take your pick), and they don’t even believe that they exist as conscious beings because, you know, consciousness is an illusion.
… a closer look at the evidence does not bear out the increasingly persistent myth that “it’s all unconscious anyway.” Here very interesting work has been done by Alfred Mele at Florida State University. In his Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will, Mele critically examines claims to the effect that, for instance, our brains make decisions before we become conscious of them, or that intentions don’t play a role in producing actions. He finds the evidence for such extraordinary claims extraordinarily deficient and — to the contrary — lines up evidence from neurobiology for the conclusion that consciousness plays a major role in (some, most certainly not all) of our decisions, particularly when it comes to the sort of decisions we normally do attribute to conscious deliberation (like whether to change career, say, not just when to push a button on a computer screen, a la Libet experiments).
As a matter of fact, the older one gets, the more likely one is to take some time to make a decision – because all aspects of one’s mind are not reporting at once. Not all decisions are equally easy, or fact-rich.
That is why David Brooks’ “The young and the neuro” have got it all wrong.
It’s interesting how many atheists are pulling back from the materialist conclusions.