Monday, December 19, 2011

Point Three: Consciousness

Ok it's been a long time coming due to finals but here is Varghese's point three from Appendix A of There Is a God. Again most of this is taken directly from the book but I find it to be quite thought provoking nontheless.

·         He writes, "Consciousness is correlated with certain regions of the brain, but when the same systems of neurons are present in the brain stem there is no “production” of consciousness. As a matter of fact, as physicist Gerald Schroeder points out, there is no essential difference in the ultimate physical constituents of a heap of sand and the brain of an Einstein. Only blind and baseless faith in matter lies behind the claim that certain bits of matter can suddenly “create” a new reality that bears no resemblance to matter. 

·         In contrast to Dennett, Sam Harris has strongly defended the supraphysical reality of consciousness. “The problem, however, is that nothing about a brain, when surveyed as a physical system, declares it to be a bearer of that peculiar, interior dimension that each of us experiences as consciousness in his own case.” The upshot is startling: “Consciousness may be a far more rudimentary phenomenon than are living creatures and their brains. And there appears to be no obvious way of ruling out such a thesis experimentally.” To his credit, Dawkins acknowledges the reality of both consciousness and language and the problem this poses. “Neither Steve Pinker nor I can explain human subjective consciousness—what philosophers call qualia,” he said once. “In How the Mind Works Steve elegantly sets out the problem of subjective consciousness, and asks where it comes from and what’s the explanation. Then he’s honest enough to say, ‘Beats the heck out of me.’ That is an honest thing to say, and I echo it. We don’t know. We don’t understand it.”  Wolpert deliberately avoids the entire issue of consciousness—“I have purposely avoided any discussion of consciousness.'"

Of course we don't know how or why consciousness came to be. Similar to what I said for point two I echo with consciousness. We have only ever seen consciousness in action through living beings. Nonlife has never produced consciousness. Perhaps consciousness is what we should ultimately define as life. In anycase there may be some natural process behind it but at this point in time I feel it is safe to say that an equally likely idea is that there is some form of intelligence behind it. Call it God or whatever you like but I would certainly shy away from calling it impossible.

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