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markdohle

Does Consciousness Depend on the Brain?

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Posted (edited)

In this materialistic age, dualists are often accused of smuggling outmoded religious beliefs back into science, of introducing superfluous spiritual forces into biology, and of venerating an invisible "ghost in the machine." However, our utter ignorance concerning the real origins of human consciousness marks such criticism more a matter of taste than of logical thinking. At this stage of mind science, dualism is not irrational, merely somewhat unfashionable. --Physicist Nick Herbert, Elemental Mind.

In March 1987 Dawn Gillott was admitted to Northampton General Hospital, seriously ill with pneumonia. After being placed in intensive care, the physicians decided to perform a tracheotomy because she could not breathe.

Continue: (http://realitysandwi...s_depend_brain/)

Edited by Still Waters
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not just brain, but also the neural network around your intestines, too. Pretty depressing isn't it?

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Hi Mark, I was wondering if you have seen this utube vid about NDEs called ‘consciousness without brain activity’, I this presentation by Dr Bruce Grayson very interesting.

take care
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That was great Sutemi, I particularly liked the point of discussion where it was noted that our logic is culturally based. We are perhaps programmed by our particular culture to view an experience in a certain way and we have only the language of the culture we live to inform others of the nature of a mysterious event such as an NDE, such that westen culture will commonly refer to a tunnel leading to a light and other culture will see a well or moving through the stem of a flower (2 examples mentioned in the vid). Some cultures will see God as they understand him/her others will see their relatives and yet others will simply perceive a feeling of overwhelming love and contentment, depending on what they have been taught through language and culture to comprehend of an event that is otherwise completely inexplicable.

So it seems that the mystery of the NDE runs deeper than we may envisage based on anecdotes of the experiencers. To me it seems that the experience is filtered back through the brain and into language based only on what the brain can comprehend, which is this world (or more specifically the culture in which the experiencer lives) and all the neurological connections this world has provided it to help it filter and use information - it cannot explain the experience outside these terms because a "language" does not exist for it comprehend the experience with. That is just fascinating to consider.

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The title question is a little tricky. Our consciousness, so far as we can tell, depends on a functioning brain. But, the Church-Turing thesis, a respectable mathematical hypothesis yet to be decidied, holds that all cognitive functions can be realized by other things as well. On this view, the idea that consciousness as such (as opposed to humans being conscious) depends on meat is an assumption, not an established fact, not even a necessary component of "materialism."

I don't know whether the Church-Turing thesis is true, and it isn't the focus of a large portion of current engineering research into artificial intlligence. But so long as the question is open, the answer to the title question as asked is maybe not.

A few points arisisng. The phrase "the ghost in the machine" is not an engineer's appeal to mysticism. It is a philospher's (Gilbert Ryles) image to summarize Descartes' mind-body dualism. It is a beautiful phrase, and so people use it in a variety of other ways. If the Church-Turing thesis is true, then the capacity for consciousness is an inherent propety of matter. There is no ghost, nor anything for a ghost to do, anymore than a match needs a ghost to ignite.

I haven't the faintest idea why anybody wouldn't think that was spiritually uplifting. It would also vindicate William Kingdon Clifford, a nineteenth century mathematician and philosopher of science. He hypothesized that "mind stuff" is in all matter, and its expression depends only on the matter being suitably organized.

Finally, it is not the case that "our" logic is culturally based. Whether somebody uses logic and for what purposes are matters of choice. The Church-Turing thesis implies that the familiar logic is the basis of all cognitive functioning, and that would include religious thinking. As I say, this not proven, but not silly, either, and not something mired in any quarrel with materialism.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with 8 bits and would have written something similar but not as scientific. Consciousness requires a host to evolve and exist in, but that host does not have to be organic. There is already a lot of discussion as to whether some artificial intelligences have passed the Turing test. and the benchmark is now being set even higher. In other words, not only is a machine based consciousness, at a human level or higher, possible; it is almost with us today. There are some AIs you can talk to and have great difficulty determining that they are not a human consciousness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test

I was nearly sucked in by what I believe was a "chatter bot" the other day. These are programmes which imitate a person online in order to get you to; reveal information, join a group for which you pay money, or expose your computer to mal ware.. They are often used in areas where people have strong motivations or drivers, notably dating sites. Here they can pretend to be an attractive member of the opposite sex (with a picture or video clip added for reality) and get you to join the site, or to give information about yourself.

They even exist on online gaming sites like world of war craft for similar reasons. A particularly nerdish real life gamer can be insulted by being called a bot. ie their responses are not seen as fully human.

Edited by Mr Walker

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Unfortunately, relying on supernatural explanation of consciousness can open the gateway to many fringe ideas that should not be talked about.

I'd go with 'our consciousness dies, and our essence is absorbed to the universe' thing.

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Unfortunately, relying on supernatural explanation of consciousness can open the gateway to many fringe ideas that should not be talked about.

I'd go with 'our consciousness dies, and our essence is absorbed to the universe' thing.

Fringe ideas should be discussed, its what opens us to other concept. But accepted as truth? No, we shouldnt

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Fringe ideas should be discussed, its what opens us to other concept. But accepted as truth? No, we shouldnt

Today's fringe idea may well be tomorrow's dogma, but in all probability it won't.

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Unfortunately, relying on supernatural explanation of consciousness can open the gateway to many fringe ideas that should not be talked about.

I'd go with 'our consciousness dies, and our essence is absorbed to the universe' thing.

Why not? Are there demons around we might disturb talking about them?

I don't know what happens when we die, and that is a different issue from what the nature of our consciousness may be. I think we are nowhere near being able to show how brain activity gets transferred into experience of sensation, let alone consciousness, so I think it entirely premature to become dogmatic about it. All that I can see has been demonstrated is that you need brain to have these things, but not that they originate from brain.

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately, relying on supernatural explanation of consciousness can open the gateway to many fringe ideas that should not be talked about.

Would the existence of a Spirit, or rather conscious body of massless energy particles having a conscience within this spherical expanse of space we call the universe be supernatural? .

They came with a Bible and their religion. stole our land, crushed our spirit, and now they tell us we should be thankful to the Lord for being saved.

-Chief Pontiac (1718-1769)

Interesting signature, so the 'men of science' being carnal minded rejected the Pope's feeble attempt to try to maybe scare them into

not trespassing upon the Americas which was given by the Spirit to Noah and his decendants, and its the Bible's fault.

Edited by 029b10

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We are but information. That information can be recorded and set back in motion in probably thousands of ways. A fundamental reality exists that forms the rules of how our reality is constructed and its far beyond the simple reactions of beryionic matter. It's what allowed matter to exist in the first place and governs how it behaves. There must be a non material substrate reality underlining this one... Who knows maybe many layers to it. By virtue of evolution it would seem that conciousness and self aware sentience is the Apex of evolution. It's highly probable that deep nature would find a way to conserve conciousness in its deepest levels.

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