Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Quick Answer (Corrected and extended with more time given to it the next day)

No.  You don't get to pull that bait and switch.  You:

1. Insist that consciousness is a physical phenomenon which evolved, on the basis of a promissory note guaranteeing that what will be shown by as of yet to be done science with mice will support your claims of how consciousness evolved in the human brain.  

2. But when presented with a study which,  for the first time, quite shatters the long standing assumption that the physical bodies of mice were enough like humans for people to safely make far less speculative physiological claims for the use of them in immunological studies, now you want to, somehow, claim that consciousness is a "special" kind of physical phenomenon and that your hopes for it are unaffected by only science done in that area. 

Either consciousness is just another aspect of the physical body like the immune system or it isn't.  You don't get to claim it is and then to, somehow, claim the study I cited isn't relevant to your research plan. 

You should decide which it is, either you really believe in your claims that consciousness is physical and that studying mouse brains in order to make claims about the evolution of human brains will lead to understanding of it, having this study used to refute your contention, or, in the face of recent science, you abandon that claimed route to supporting your belief.  

I think you'll find the second of those alternatives easier than trying to explain why consciousness is different from other aspects of physiology while, at the same time, claiming it is not different.

Of course you could drop your unfounded contention that consciousness is known to be a physical attribute of animals with highly developed brains and that science can arrive at an understanding of it as a physical entity. You could maintain an attitude of agnostic skepticism of all such unevidenced claims, including the ones you make. 

I haven't gone far into why I doubt that's the case, merely suggesting the prospect that, as it would seem, consciousness, itself is not a physical entity and as such would not be like physical entities in its properties, attributes and abilities.  I've made one such argument  here, extended here and here.  

Every time I try to match what is known about the experience of thinking, and as I experience it, I can't match it to what is known about the way DNA works or how the physical structures of the brain come into being to the speed and process or that experience.  For example, considering how many ideas we have, including the ideas we have and modify into other ideas or abandon in favor of other ideas or for calling a truce between competing ideas, where are those proteins or tissues that embody those ideas in the physical organ, the brain?  Why haven't they been found? Certainly people who have more ideas would have more of those physical entities in their brains, where are they  Is there a limited shelf space available within that small organ?   And I could go back to the speed with which ideas form, in real time and ask if the production of those proteins, their assembly, their folding, their incorporation into tissues of exactly the form and function so as to embody, precisely the idea they embody and not some other idea - not to mention how DNA and the bodies' chemistry know how to do that for ideas that have never existed in the human line of development now or in the distant past. 

I think it is a far more parsimonious holding that thinking is very, very unlikely to be the result of any known physical processes or even contained in them, though, certainly, the articulation and expression of thoughts are dependent on the physical organs and tissues of the body.   But that's not a scientific speculation or holding since once you remove consciousness from the realm of physical existence, you  remove the possibility that science can trap it and put it in a box to study it.   

Perhaps it cannot be entrapped within boundaries the way physical entities can be.  In which case it would not be definable, definition being the act of setting boundaries within which something can exist.  The radical difference of an entity which would not be physical from those entities which are physical are seldom to never considered when discussing that possibility.   While it is quite possible that human (or perhaps bacterial) consciousness achieves a temporal and limited expression in the part of it entrapped in a physical body, its real nature is not bounded, that wouldn't, necessarily mean that it includes all possibilities or even capabilities.  Which is hardly a new idea.  Without it having physical form even those basic concepts derived from our experience of the physical universe may not apply.   

Of course all of that is not science, nor would I ever claim it was - I would vigorously reject the suggestion it could be.  Unlike so many in the sciences today I reject the idea that science can be removed from the act of physical observation and remain valid.  Which is why my good friend RMJ is right, it's essential to bring the philosophers back into the questions of consciousness, free will and the such.  When it comes to free will and other ideas of demonstrable importance in producing a democratic and decent world, I'm going to insist that the historians and others held to be mere mortals in the scientistic universe be given their say, as well. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm still gonna insist on a definition of "consciousness" before this conversation goes any further.

    And that means we HAVE to let the philosophers back into the room.....