From Steve Paulson of Wisconsin public broadcasting at Nautilus:
Once you start poking around in the muck of consciousness studies, you will soon encounter the specter of Sir Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist with an audacious—and quite possibly crackpot—theory about the quantum origins of consciousness. He believes we must go beyond neuroscience and into the mysterious world of quantum mechanics to explain our rich mental life. No one quite knows what to make of this theory, developed with the American anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, but conventional wisdom goes something like this: Their theory is almost certainly wrong, but since Penrose is so brilliant (“One of the very few people I’ve met in my life who, without reservation, I call a genius,” physicist Lee Smolin has said), we’d be foolish to dismiss their theory out of hand. Indeed. Naturalism could be just plain bunk.
As I wondered why Penrose keeps hammering away at his theory on consciousness after all these years, I asked him if he thinks there’s any inherent meaning in the universe. His answer surprised me. “Somehow, our consciousness is the reason the universe is here.” So does he think there’s intelligent life—or consciousness—somewhere else in the cosmos? “Yes, but it may be extremely rare.” But if consciousness is the point of this whole shebang, wouldn’t you expect to find some evidence of it beyond Earth? “Well, I’m not so sure our own universe is that favorably disposed toward consciousness,” he said. “You could imagine a universe with a lot more consciousness that’s peppered all over the place. Why aren’t we in one of those rather than this one where it seems to be a rather uncommon activity?
“So, yes, we want to see the purpose of it. I don’t know. Maybe it’s attributing the wrong word. Purpose—what does that mean?” He chuckled. More.
One can’t help wondering if this is suckerbait. Challenged, will Penrose retreat back to the safe little warren of nonsense theories about consciousness? A few are offered below, just to get you started, but we don’t especially recommend it. On the other hand, just for fun, start with, Claim: Science is afraid of animal consciousness. Why? Won’t crackpot theories work as well as they do for human consciousness? What’s different?
See also: Aired on BBC: Consciousness no different than our ability to digest
Thomas Nagel: Daniel Dennett “maintaining a thesis at all costs” in Bacteria to Bach and Back
Physicist: Regrettably, materialism can’t explain mind
Split brain does NOT lead to split consciousness? What? After all the naturalist pop psych lectures we paid good money for at the U? Well, suckers r’ us.
Does the ability to “split” our brains help us understand consciousness? (Apparently not.)
What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness
Or else: Consciousness as a state of matter
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”
Searle on Consciousness “Emerging” from a Computer: “Miracles are always possible.”
Psychology Today: Latest new theory of consciousness A different one from the above.
Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us
Claim: Science is afraid of animal consciousness. Why? Won’t crackpot theories work as well as they do for human consciousness?
So then: Question: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?
Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away