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Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
#1
Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
I'm currently reading a book titled "The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and The Meaning of Life." I have a number of qualms with the book so far, most of which are largely summarized by the following excerpt:

"...whatever we do, we must be sure that the mechanism we postulate preserves the electron tunneling going on at individual synaptic clefts; otherwise, the mechanism will no longer involve data-processing events at synapses. At least we are not searching for a phenomenon that may or may not exist. We already know that quantum tunneling is there. We already know its features and much of its mechanism. All we need to discover is a way that electrons at synapses can make the long jumps from one synapse to the next."

Much of the book is spent arguing that scientific analysis leads to the conclusion that quantum mechanics is directly tied to individual synapses of neuron cells. I can appreciate an unconventional hypothesis but here "the quantum mind" is presented as THE scientific theory that best explains the data. I get the sense that I'm being oversold mystical woo-woo by a physicist with alterior motives. If so, can someone direct me to scientific literature that demonstrates why appealing to quantum physics or "Universal Consciousness" (that's the direction this book is heading) is not the correct approach? I'm not at all studied in theories of consciousness and I feel like this may not have been the best book to start with.
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#2
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
All I know about consciousness is by exclusion: it is the state of being that exists right before someone knocks me out.

Boru
'A man is accepted into a church for what he believes.  He is turned out for what he knows.' - Mark Twain
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#3
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
You caution is justified. Some new age types invoke quantum mechanics to justify all manner of doctrines. That does not mean that serious inquiry is focusing on quantum phenomena as a link between mind and brain. Mechanistic 19th century physics seems highly incapable of supporting a robust theory of consciousness. The incoherence of current naturalistic theories based on Newtonian physics warrants looking elsewhere. That said, people's understanding of the natural world conforms to the larger metaphysical framework within which they work. If ontological naturalism is taken for granted then some potentially effective lines of inquiry will be forsaken.
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#4
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
You may like to know that electrical impulses in our bodies are not carried by electrons, like it happens in standard electrical wires.
Read up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_pote...ansmission


sooo... yeah, you're being sold woo cleverly disguised as physics.
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#5
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
Victor Stenger wrote a book or paper on the subject, but I haven't read it. He would be a good source for the skeptical viewpoint on the subject though. I know Sam Harris has also made occasional comments on the subject, but I don't know if he's written anything extensive on the subject. Quantum consciousness, like many ideas on consciousness, involves vague intuitions about "what must be" without an actual theoretical mechanism for making that happen.
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#6
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
...although better than clinging to what cannot be, like materialism.
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#7
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
(March 6, 2014 at 10:08 am)ChadWooters Wrote: You caution is justified. Some new age types invoke quantum mechanics to justify all manner of doctrines. That does not mean that serious inquiry is focusing on quantum phenomena as a link between mind and brain. Mechanistic 19th century physics seems highly incapable of supporting a robust theory of consciousness. The incoherence of current naturalistic theories based on Newtonian physics warrants looking elsewhere. That said, people's understanding of the natural world conforms to the larger metaphysical framework within which they work. If ontological naturalism is taken for granted then some potentially effective lines of inquiry will be forsaken.
Ontological naturalism... As opposed to what exactly?

(March 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm)rasetsu Wrote: Victor Stenger wrote a book or paper on the subject, but I haven't read it. He would be a good source for the skeptical viewpoint on the subject though. I know Sam Harris has also made occasional comments on the subject, but I don't know if he's written anything extensive on the subject. Quantum consciousness, like many ideas on consciousness, involves vague intuitions about "what must be" without an actual theoretical mechanism for making that happen.

I've read a little on the Stenger book. This is actually the only critical work focusing on New Age philosophy (well, minus what I'm sure has been written in response to Penrose-Hameroff) I've yet to find from a materialist. It definitely sounds like a worthwhile read although my one concern from some of the reviews I've read is that Stenger goes after the easier targets and doesn't deal with the arguments that even some of QM's pioneers and biggest proponents have embraced.
He who loves God cannot endeavour that God should love him in return - Baruch Spinoza
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#8
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
(March 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm)rasetsu Wrote: Victor Stenger wrote a book or paper on the subject, but I haven't read it. He would be a good source for the skeptical viewpoint on the subject though. I know Sam Harris has also made occasional comments on the subject, but I don't know if he's written anything extensive on the subject. Quantum consciousness, like many ideas on consciousness, involves vague intuitions about "what must be" without an actual theoretical mechanism for making that happen.

Stenger wrote both a paper and book on the subject,

The link to the paper entitled The Myth of Quantum Consciousness

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vsten...usness.pdf

The book which was an expansion of the paper was titled Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness
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#9
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
(March 7, 2014 at 9:53 am)Justtristo Wrote:
(March 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm)rasetsu Wrote: Victor Stenger wrote a book or paper on the subject, but I haven't read it. He would be a good source for the skeptical viewpoint on the subject though. I know Sam Harris has also made occasional comments on the subject, but I don't know if he's written anything extensive on the subject. Quantum consciousness, like many ideas on consciousness, involves vague intuitions about "what must be" without an actual theoretical mechanism for making that happen.

Stenger wrote both a paper and book on the subject,

The link to the paper entitled The Myth of Quantum Consciousness

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vsten...usness.pdf

The book which was an expansion of the paper was titled Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness

After reading the paper, I still have some questions about Stenger's criticisms. First, he says that John Bell convincingly confirmed the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics... but doesn't the CI state that "the act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values" (borrowed from Wikipedia)? Secondly, why does Stenger differentiate between "measurements made by inanimate objects" and "observers"? What's the fundamental difference? Isn't the conscious observer still making the measurement, and hence causing state vector collapse, when he/she examines the data output of the inanimate object? If a measurement, which presumably must always start and end with an observer, does indeed cause the set of probabilities to assume a possible value, doesn't this more or less support what mystics are arguing when they invoke QM? Thirdly, what exactly does he mean by a "signal carrying actual information" and how does this relate to non-locality and quantum entanglement? And finally, how exactly does non-locality and quantum entanglement fit in with Special Relativity?

I know this is a bit off the original topic but some would have us believe that consciousness is directly tied to these discoveries and interpretations in physics. I think a better explanation of these would greatly benefit my understanding of why quantum mind theories fail.
He who loves God cannot endeavour that God should love him in return - Baruch Spinoza
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#10
RE: Please Help Me Understand Consciousness
Consciousness: Not being unconscious.

/thread
Tongue
[Image: Evolution.png]

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