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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 25071  
Subject: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolution Date: 6/6/2001 3:23 PM
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I take my philosophical starting point as roughly in accordance with Searle, but a bit more "hard AI" in some ways. In other words: Conciousness is not a thing, but a function of the brain, in the same way that the circulation of blood is not a thing, but a property of the vasculature and heart. It is thus neither an object, nor a non-material entity, but a property which an object posesses. In this view point, the "problem" of qualia is not an insurmountable puzzle for conciousness, but simply a description of part of the concious state. The major difference between conciousness and all other visceral functions is that we view (erroneously) a combination of language and entirely subjective states to discuss the visceral function, forgetting that language and subjective states are the visceral function. It is a cognitive trap that is subtle and elusive.
Penrose, and all the other "spooky" theorists of conciousness avoid several facts:

1. Conciousness is made of parts, and lesion studies show that in humans. Concious experience is not bound into a seamless whole: things are at the edge and the center of experiance depending on circumstances, and circumstances will also cause things to intrude that are not objectively real (hallucinations) and cause objectively real phenomena to drop out of sight (Chronic pain is no longer noticed except as irritability).

2. The brain has a specific architecture, and lesions in the brain cause specific syndromes. These syndromes are best explained by the activity of neurons in those areas, and their anatomical connections. These lesions can also alter the capacity of objects to enter the concious arena, and the capacity of the brain to perform tasks employed by the concious mind (ie they limit the sphere of conscious experiance). Hence, any theory of consciousness must explain these two facts in detail.

The microtubular theory proposes that somehow the thalamic 40hz scanning frequency is necessary for the coherence function of the microtubular arrays. This does not address in any way adequately the fact that much of our concious experience appears to be mediated by overlapping circuits between cortical areas: the function of many thalamic nuclei are more plausibly scanning, switching and weighting of functional importance of cortical and subcortical circuits, rather than a spooky source of quantum coherence. If the theory is so modified as to say that the actions of the thalamic mechanism is reflected by neuronal activity, then all you have to do is remove the quantum coherence bit, and you have the same explanation as the usual neurobiological one, but simply lacking the quantum stuff, and since the necessity of invoking quantum coherence on neurobiological grounds is not clear at all, the whole thing becomes somewhat pointless.

In brief, the only sensible neurobiological approach to conciousness is NOT that it is a manifestation of an event or a thing: it is first and foremost a subjective state. But that is a surprisingly subtle and tricky point: it is a subjective state in an organ that appears to have as its function the generation of particular subjective states, in the same way that blood circulation is a phenomenon in an organ whose function seems to be the maintenance of a particular pattern of circulation. If it were otherwise, then the heart (with its pacing, and its intrinsic microtubules) would be "conscious", and so would the bowels (with their truly substantial innervation and intrinsic pacers). But they don't manifest signs of experiancing subjective states in the same way that brains do, even though they surely have both microtubules and a complex architecture and intrinsic pacing. So........


What does this have to do with evolution? Once you work out what conciousness actually is, then that defines the scope of both its consequences and origins. So all of this it has to do with the idea of specified complexity but it also bears directly and simply on the notion of Intelligent design. Let us now consider the simple idea that conciousness is a prerequisite for the activity of intelligence. Hence conciousness is a prerequisite for design. Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition). That is the only way we know of it, or can define in it any scientific terms (that's a scientific fact). It is thus impossible in the strongest terms to speak of ID without implicitly assuming a material brain of one form or another. I think we all know what that implies for theists of any type: that if G-d is the designer, G-d has a material brain. If G-d had a material brain, then He would be a natural phenomenon (by definition). Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

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