Monday, July 23, 2007

The Way I See It

I originally posted this as a comment over at Uncommon Descent:

The whole idea of a material basis for mind has always seemed radically incoherent to me. To the degree to which we can say, “see, here is a physical explanation for everything that goes on in a human being, consciousness is not a separate category of causation beyond the physical–it is exactly to that degree that we have made the case that a human being shouldn’t be conscious! If physics takes care of the whole show in every important detail, then consciousness is not even implied as a byproduct. It’s not needed, it’s not a cause, so why the heck does it even bother to exist?

Or to put it another way:

Does a doorbell need to be conscious to operate properly? How about a calculator? How about a computer? If no, then how in the world does thinking of the brain as a physiological computer explain consciousness as some sort of “emergent property?” If computers don’t need consciousness in any way, shape, or form to do what they do, then how does what amounts to a more elaborate computer generate a wholly unnecessary and superfluous consciousness?

Consciousness is an axiom, not a conclusion. It is at the start of chains of inference, not at the end. One of the most purely empirical data points we have is that we, each of us, are conscious. The idea of materialism, particles and laws is derived, and not immediately empirical (it took centuries of conscious observation and inference to come up with the materialist idea, it takes a moment to “sense” our own consciousness). It seems odd to try to explain a cause (consciousness) in terms of its effects (the ideas of materialism, particles, and laws). In fact, it is ass-backwards.

As far as I’m concerned, even if the Darwinists had a decent explanation of material evolution (which they don’t), their notion that material evolution has led to consciousness is entirely out to lunch. This alone would disqualify their grand materialist creation story.


Michael Poole said...

Calling consciousness an "axiom, not a conclusion" begs the question. Axioms need no explanation, and generally do not permit any. *Of course* you think it is folly to try to explain it; but consciousness is not magic, where too much knowledge or analysis deny the thing.

Consciousness does not exist because there is some a priori necessity for it; it exists as a side effect, contrary to those who say "made in His image" or "a way for the universe to examine itself". It exists because brains evolved to the point that they can support thought that is abstract enough to identify the act of thinking. Calculators, doorbells, ants, current computers, bacteria -- none have that level of complexity, so they cannot attain consciousness.

Jester said...

Typical Darwinist cant, that.