Consciousness must be understood as a physical phenomenon

October 26, 2008 at 11:55 pm (Consciousness (general)) (, , )

This is just a general post to start off this blog.  One reason I am interested in writing a blog on consciousness is that there is so much pseudoscience in “consciousness studies.”

Quantum consciousness is generally, probably always in fact, magical, either changing quantum theory to fit consciousness, or supposing that consciousness acts like quantum computation, which is not the case at all.  Mostly, consciousness is the “knowing together” (as the etymology suggests–and as most definitions continue to imply) of data, in a decidedly deterministic manner.  To be sure, everything comes down to quantum mechanics in abstract explanation, but generally we do best to understand consciousness according to classical physics.

Then there are the eliminationists, who are perhaps more annoying than the magic “explainers.”  The fact is that some of the brain is conscious, some is not, and during dreaming the latter portion increases vs. waking states.  Clearly there is something that is “consciousness,” and it is hardly explained by Dennett and others as “self consciousness,” or by ignoring the issues of consciousness altogether.

Then there are weird non-physical claims, like Hofstaeder’s.  Needless to say, “explaining” consciousness without dealing with matter and energy, and neuroscience, will never do at all.   Even were we “strange loops,” which remains to be demonstrated, we would need a physical explanation for it.

It is much the same for “connectionism,” which fails to explain the connectedness of consciousness–since nerve impulses are largely distinct events.  While connectionism, “general wordspaces,” and cognitive models have their value, they do not actually explain consciousness, but need a “magical” leap to consciousness.

Exactly what this non-exhaustive list of consciousness “explanations” has over the “soul” as explanation, I cannot fathom.  Consciousness is a physical phenomenon with physical causes, and no unexplained leaps or vague appeals to quantum entanglement explains anything.

Now I would not fault neuroscience as such at all, for it is a bright spot of science among various heuristic models and the just plain nutty ideas.  But for those who pretend that neuroscience need only account for the data encoded in conscious impulses, without explaining why those data are conscious while many data encoded in nerve impulses are evidently unconscious, that particular route fails.

To make consciousness into a subject of science, we need to figure out both the data known in consciousness, and how this becomes connected (as we experience it to be) in consciousness.  And the explanation has to agree with physics.  Fortunately, science already provides the constraints for explaining consciousness, as there are a rather limited number of forces acting within consciousness.

Unless one can figure out how to make chemistry and its quantum states connect consciousness, we’re virtually bound to stick with electromagnetism for explanation of consciousness.  With magnetism being rather weak, the much stronger electric forces should be considered to predominate, although at this point magnetic forces ought not to be considered to have no effect (the fact that magnetic forces and electric forces interact so readily is another good reason not to count out magnetism).  Gravity almost certainly could not be the cause of consciousness, especially since it affects brain matter almost uniformly.

In the electric phenomena of the brain there are specific causal mechanisms open to understanding conscious connection and how it may differ between consciousness, and the unconscious brain.  Using those causes can make consciousness into an actual science, while speculations about “quantum computation,” ignoring the temporal and spatial ranges of consciousness, and actually bypassing physical explanation of consciousness, go nowhere.  Similarly with issues like “free will,” those are non-starters which have no explanation or even reasonable speculations on how they could exist, and they do not merit discussion when explaining consciousness.

Now it is true that I wrote the above while having my own model of consciousness, “electric consciousness,” in mind.  But of course it was by using the priciples and rules of science that I arrived at that model, and it is for the same reason that I differ from the various “electromagnetic consciousness” models out there–some of which seek to “explain” fictions like “free will.”  Be that as it may, I intend to both discuss science and its relationship to consciousness in the abstract, as well as in relationship to my own model.

This will probably not be a blog in which large numbers of posts are made.  I simply hope to post some thoughts on consciousness from time to time, and anyone is, of course, free to respond.  I will likely continue to moderate comments, due to the problem of spam, yet, unless someone is simply trolling, I expect that few, if any, comments will be deleted.

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