Consciousness

January 3, 2007

Reading

I have been reading

 

  • R.Penrose, The Road to Reality
  • D.Bohm, Quantum Theory
  • M.Frayne, The Human Touch
  • S.Blackmore, Conversations on Consciousness
  • B.Shine, The Infinite Mind

and am soon to read

  • R.Dawkins, The God Delusion

 

The Penrose has had to be, after an initial detailed start, a high level first view and I await the time to study it in much more depth taking on board every mathematical aspect. This should keep me going for a long time, I suspect.

 

The Bohm has put me back into a state of basic understanding of Quantum Theory that I once had back around 1963 at the end of my degree.

 

Frayne surprised me, in that, starting discussing the human  relationship with the world through the use of words, the discussions took the reader into the realm of consciousness. This book too will need a second study.  I have thus been led  into thinking more about consciousness with some very interesting reading currently from Blackmore’s book.

 

The book by Shine has exposed me to the approach of a medium to this field.

 

Intelligent Design

I have, too, recently been reading in the press about Intelligent Design and have begun to realise that I need to understand what this argument is about. I look forward to Dawkins on this.

 

My first thoughts follow, but bearing in mind that I have not read significantly about the topic.

 

It seems that there are some areas in Darwinian Evolution Theory for which a full argument cannot be found to explain. I have no problem with this and it becomes exciting that new developments or adjustments might be forthcoming.

 

Assuming that such areas of theory weakness do exist, ID seems to suggest that there should exist some conscious entities which have and do adjust the process from outside. I doubt that one could prove that such entities could not exist

 

Such outside entities seem also to arise in discussions on the existence of the universe. Again one can hardly prove that such things should not exist and being part of the  collection of things which exist we should be able to look forward to experiments to discover the properties of these entities, as yet another  set of phenomena in physics.

 

The trouble here, though,  is that investigation seems to stop her,e with the labelling of these things as gods . Why this should be so I don’t know. These entities are postulates and a curiosity of science and inquisitiveness would force investigation through experiment.

 

I would feel the same frustration if the ID designers marked a point at which study stopped.

 

Consciousness

The Blackmore book seems a good way of picking up current ideas on the topic through the recorded, and only lightly edited, conversations with a variety of experts.

 

A fascinating aspect is the great development of experiment and data collection that has recently taken place. A fruitful technique seems to be based on binocular rivalry. Each eye is exposed to a different image and it is found that only one can be experienced at a time. There is seemingly a means of separation between neuronal activity for conscious and subconscious effects. Using advanced brain observation techniques enables a close view of neurons active under conscious and unconscious states.

 

Suggestions are made by some that consciousness is just the state of certain neuron sets being active. I find this, personally, a fine idea – consciousness is just the state of activity of neurons deeply interconnected with other parts of the brain network.

 

It has also been suggested that consciousness is just another fundamental measurable of physics like mass, space, time, etc

 

Free Will is of course a topic in such discussions. Blackmore herself is happy to dispense with this.

 

On the whole I too feel comfortable with this view and must see life as mechanisms running onward and generating consciousness as they go, which one enjoys, or otherwise,  as they happen.

 

I get the impression that the study of consciousness awaits now much more experiment to correlate neuron behaviour with conscious experience and these will then help development of more detailed theories which can then predict and hence be testable.

 

As physics continues to develop with a variety of stuffs – space, time, mass, strings, consciousness, etc – the attempt will presumably be to use fewer and fewer stuffs. It does seem though, that there will always be some final stuff which can be used to explain all, except this stuff  itself.

 

What a wonderful mystery. As I walked the other day under a grey winter  sky, through leafless woods with the dog, what an amazing oddity! Neurons firing in my head, fewer perhaps in the dog’s head, none in the trees perhaps, all surrounded by space stuff and time stuff and mass stuff and consciousness stuff. How urtterly exciting and how feeble the idea of an-end-of-the- argument god.

 

Quantum Effects

I have considerable fascination for the possibility of quantum effects. The associated  uncertainty and ideas of quantum entanglement must be useful. I imagine a brain, with quantum processes, and associate that with free particles which interact with it, and through entanglement carry, in some way, knowledge of the brain’s  state throughout the whole universe!

 

How might quantum uncertainty relate to the unfolding of the life processes in which we discard free will?

 

Meditation

I look forward to discussions in the Blackmore book on meditation.