This is a segment where we are featuring the work of one of our professional affiliates, Lorna Green. See here for a collection of her published works on our website.
Consciousness, this New Principle
My Arguments for this New Principle, Consciousness
1. The prevailing Universe picture.
The question, how can you explain Consciousness in the material world? The answer: We cannot, not on any prevailing concepts of the material world.
The prevailing Universe/Earth picture: The Earth has been evolving for four and a half billion years, beginning as a dead planet, and then gradually evolving life, by slow processes of transmutation and natural selection, beginning with simple forms, emerging into more and more complex plant and animal beings, the whole vibrant living interconnected array that the planet has been, until we arrived here and began doing the planet in.
Human beings emerged from this process of evolution, at the end of evolution, we are an animal like any other, born into one short life with death at the end, and that’s it.
And so, the picture of nature in the Life Sciences: The planet consists of innumerable material beings, and matter is the discreet, separate and disconnected, interacting mechanistically, pushed and pulled about by the purely physical forces, that function “blind.”
And most people, and most disciplines, subscribe to some form of Physicalism, Physical Realism or Deterministic Materialism. Matter, whatever it is, the hard stuff, is what is Real, and everything is some aspect of matter, to be explained in terms of material processes. Most of our problems, in both science and the modern world, owe to Physicalism, and so, I now propose to rewrite it.
There is no proof whatsoever for Physicalism, and the facts are now in the literature that decisively disprove it.
2. The problem of Consciousness.
And now comes Consciousness. Consciousness appears only in Ourselves, and some of the higher animals when “matter reaches a certain state of complexity,” it is produced by neurons in the brain. But Consciousness is nothing “really Real,” it is simply a byproduct of brain activity of neural activity, it is the brain that is doing the work. As William James summed up this position (not his) the mind is to the brain what a shadow is to the runner, it runs beside him but never influences his stride.
And so, the great question of neuroscience: How do neurons in the brain produce Consciousness? So far, no one has been able to show how, all we have, at best—even if that—is dualism, correlation, parallelism. Two processes are running in parallel, a train of neural events, a train of Consciousness events, which of these events is the really “really real,” which one is the true causality of the other.
The faith of neuroscientists is that neural events are what is real, and they take great delight in telling people that what matters to them most, a god, freedom, an afterlife, creativity, are not real, they are not real, just illusions, simply wish fulfillments, the neurons are what is real. But no one has yet shown how neurons produce Consciousness, and it can all in fact just be the other way around.
The Tucson conference, “Towards a Science of Consciousness,” has been meeting biannually for the past 20 years, with as yet, no Science of Consciousness even in sight. (As I write, the Conference has renamed itself the “Science of Consciousness,” but most of its fundamental assumptions are the same) Christof Koch has been making valiant efforts to solve this problem, saying that he cannot see how Consciousness can emerge from non-conscious beings. He has been travelling the country the last few years, lamenting the “scandalous fact” that as yet, we have no theory of Consciousness. I dare say that his own theories are part of the problem. In a recent talk, Christof insisted that Consciousness cannot and does not exist outside of matter.
So: The problem of Consciousness. My entire life is orchestrated by my Consciousness, Consciousness not a true causality? Ideas, an aspect of Consciousness, we think about them, we try to get them clear, we talk about them, we fight wars about them, not a true causality? On the prevailing picture of neuroscience, they cannot be.
And then, another question: If Consciousness does not have any real function for the brain, what is it doing there at all? Entertainment? And the same questions hold for panpsychism. What is Consciousness doing there at all? Just going along for the ride, or a true causality in its own right?
And so, “the hard problem” of neuroscience, in my own words: How can neurons in the brain, physics and chemistry, pushed and pulled around by the purely physical forces, produce an idea, let alone a whole train of ideas all related by meaning and content? And then, who what and where is the “I” who sees them? I would say, at this point, they cannot, and that it could all be the other way around, that neural events are, as the title of the book by Roger Penrose suggests: “Shadows of the Mind,” and the field is open.
I propose that the hard problem of Consciousness is so hard, that it cannot be accommodated or explained by any existing scientific principles, it calls all of them into question, and it calls into question our concept of matter, nature, the material world, physical reality.
Consciousness is for modern science, what the paradoxes of light were for classical physics: All of our understanding of the physical world must change.
3. The problem with modern science.
There are three major problems with modern science.
First, the problems of Consciousness. David Chalmers: Consciousness fits uneasily into our concept of nature, either we have to revise our concept of nature or our understanding of Consciousness. I say, it is time to rewrite our concept of the material world.
Modern science is already in deep trouble. In 2004, Roger Penrose published, “The Road to Reality,” an account of the whole of physics, all of its laws, theories, ideas, and at the end of 1,000 pages Roger concludes that in fact, science has missed it, has “failed to find the road to reality,” “and does not even know what physical reality really is.” Pretty serious stuff coming from such an eminent mathematician and physicist as Roger Penrose.
Now, where did physics miss it, what is the source of our failure to understand physical reality? It goes back to the dawn of science itself, but more recently, it really comes from Descartes, and so, I return to Descartes. Just over 300 years ago, Descartes laid the entire thought foundations for both science and the modern world, and with them mind/brain dualism and the problem of Consciousness. He was travelling with the army, and found himself stranded in a foreign town, in a bare room, lit by a candle, with nothing to do but think.
And now comes Consciousness, and a third reason for rethinking science: The prevailing scientific image of nature as something “devoid of Consciousness,” is enabling the destruction of the Earth. And we all have a vested interest in keeping this image in place. When you intend to ravage the planet, and turn it into consumer goods, first pretend it has no Consciousness, that way you don’t need to have a conscious about it.
This scientific image of nature is driving the destruction of the Earth and driving us all insane, it has brought us to the brink of our own extinction, and it needs to change. And given Roger’s conclusion, that physics has missed it, there is the best of reasons to rethink it.
Deeply embedded in the modern world, is Descartes concept of matter, but it does not originate with him, it dates from the dawn of thought, because both Plato and Aristotle believed that the Earth is something devoid of reason, mind or Consciousness.
And this idea is now coming to a head in the modern world.
Descartes has simply developed them to the full. And so, we can tell exactly where the human race has missed it, because this is the clearest statement of this view of the Earth, that we can now put it to the test, and refute it.
Descartes classified the whole of Reality into two basic principles, Mind and Matter. God is pure Mind, human beings are composed of mind and matter, and the Earth is matter. According to Descartes, only human beings on Earth have Consciousness, everything else is matter, and matter is simply “the weighable, the measurable, the extended in space and time, utterly devoid of inner life, feeling, thought, emotion.”
There is something about us that does not like dualism, and ever since Descartes formulated mind/brain dualism, scientists have been trying to get rid of it, by somehow “reducing” mind to matter, by “reducing” Consciousness to the brain, as a byproduct of brain activity. This has not worked, and treating Consciousness as an emergent property of matter, is not the right way to go.
And so, let us all try the other way around.
Now we are in the position of Copernicus. Remember Copernicus? Copernicus was making his calculations on his belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe, until his calculations became so unwieldy, he decided to try it all the other way around, to put the sun at the center, and Lo! All of his data fell neatly into place.
For the last 20 years the Tucson conference has not been able to do this. The question of the Tucson conference is: How does matter give rise to ideas, emotions, and experience? My answer is simple: It doesn’t, it is all somehow the other way around, and to stand modern science on its head and to take a look at our basic premises.
The faith of neuroscience is based on three assumptions:
a. That Consciousness arises only at the end of evolution, in our self and some of the higher animals, when matter, attains “a certain state of complexity,”
b. That it is produced by neurons in the brain,
c. The deepest assumption of all, that Consciousness is something produced by matter, that matter is “first in the Universe, Consciousness is second.”
These are assumptions, and have been held so tightly, and for so long, that they seem like “facts.” John Searle, with utmost confidence and not a shred of evidence, at the 2006 Tucson conference: “The neurons produce Consciousness.” Hey, everyone knows that (everyone knows that god doesn’t like sex, everyone knows that).
The neurons produce Consciousness. This seems obvious, but is in fact an assumption, and these three assumptions underpin the whole of modern science and the modern world, and it is the failure to give them up, that we have as yet no true science of Consciousness. And this prevailing faith, is holding us back from the recognition of universal Consciousness. They are assumptions, they are in fact false theories, and in the modern world, they can be decisively tested and refuted.
And so, the entire materialist past of modern science, that has been formulated throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, can also be tested and refuted.
And now, follow me if you dare.
4. The near-death experience, and what it really means.
There is a time bomb ticking away in the heart of modern science that will explode the whole way we look at Reality. I am referring to the near-death experience. This experience and what it really means for our view of the Universe is well described in a book called Earth Age: A New Vision of God the Human and the Earth, published in 1994.
And now, this experience is being most recently described in mainstream science by Pim van Lommel (Lancet 2001) and now his book, “Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience,” (2011).
Most scientists ignore his findings, or claim it can be “explained in other ways.” They need to read Chris Carter’s, “Science and the Near-Death Experience,” (2010). He examines all of the “other ways,” and shows that they are all untenable, and that the simplest explanation of the near-death experience and what is really real, is that the patient was really out of his body.
And now, in view of the monumental significance of the near-death experience for science itself, a massive study is now underway in the UK, Canada and America, to try to answer this question, was the patient really out of his body?
Pim van Lommel and Chris Carter are exploring the science of the near-death experience, I am exploring its metaphysics.
Experiments are places where theories confront facts. Neuroscience is a field in which decisive experiments are few and far between. The near-death experience is one of them, as decisive for our times as Newton’s Light experiment was for his.
In Newton’s’ day there was a controversy about whether light was composed of colors. Newton made a simple demonstration, he held up a prism, and shone a beam of light through it, and it broke up into all the colors of the rainbow. For all who saw it, this experiment was the proof they needed. But many scientists were not present at the demonstration, they had their egos all tied up with false theories of light, and did not want them disproved.
This is true of our own times, only much worse, many researchers will not look at the evidence, because grants and reputations are riding on false theories. When you want to understand why so many minds these days are so vigorously given over to the defense of indefensible false materialistic theories, check out their funding sources. The system has a vested interest in a dead Earth, and a dead world.
I claim that the near-death experience is the “experimentum crucis” for both science and the modern world.
Let me remind you of the facts, a core experience repeated many times on cardiac wards—a repeatable experiment if you will.
The body in the bed is brain dead, eeg flat, but the patient, pure Consciousness is alive and well, hovering near the ceiling, watching the doctors working over his body below.
He is able to read dials he could not have seen from the bed, sometimes seeing events in the corridor outside the room, and at some point, he is “revived,” and wakes up in the bed again. He is able to tell the doctors everything he saw, all observations subsequently confirmed by the doctors, evidence as good as it gets, that the patient was really out of his body. In one such episode the patient saw a ball point pen roll under the radiator that even the doctors had not seen.
Now, what is so remarkable about this fact of neuroscience?
a. The patient, Consciousness, is completely separable from the body, and therefore cannot simply be a byproduct of neural activity. And so, to answer Koch, Consciousness can, and does, exist outside the body. And the question is: What does this mean? And what follows?
b. The patient is at the ceiling, able to see without eyes, hear without ears, and think and remember without a brain.
c. And so, Consciousness is completely separable from the brain, and all our true powers and sense of self are in it, even those that are bound to the sense organs. They belong to Consciousness, and not to the body in the bed.
d. The near-death experience is a crucial experiment for neuroscience, and it is the key to disentangling the relationships between Consciousness and matter.
It tests and refutes most modern theories of Consciousness, and most theories of matter, past and present.
It is the death knell for every form of materialism, scientific or otherwise, and it refutes every form of physicalism. There is not just one thing in the Universe, matter, but there are two, Consciousness and matter.
e. There is not a single scientific principle that can explain the near-death experience. And so, the near-death experience tests and refutes not this or that theory in science, but the whole of science itself, all of its explanatory principles, and our very understanding of causality. The near-death experience is really a threshold into deeper knowing, and true understanding of the nature of the Universe.
It therefore refutes every theory of Consciousness based on neurons. And so, just what are the neurons really up to?
f. And so, Consciousness is not something produced by matter, but something real in its own right, and now that we know this, we can have a science of Consciousness, as we could not have a science of shadows.
g. And then the relationship of Consciousness to the body, Consciousness would appear to be not just some helpless “ghost in the machine,” (Gilbert Ryle) but would appear to be the organizing principle of our bodies and is the source of all our true powers.
h. The near-death experience points the way to a whole new theory of the self, and of course, it opens the possibility of life after death, because it is a wedge between Consciousness and matter. It requires a rewrite of the material world, and our whole understanding of Reality.
5. Modern theories of Consciousness refuted.
a. Christof Koch: For there to be Consciousness, there must be neurons firing, well not so.
b. Francis Crick: With his “astonishing hypothesis,” typical of many other identity theorists as well: The mind is the brain. Well, it isn’t, and there is a pretty good description of it in Descartes “Meditations.”
c. Steven Pinker: The mind is simply the computational organs of the brain. Well, it isn’t.
d. Edelman and Tononi: To explain the mind is simply to give its neural correlates. Well, not so.
e. John Searle: With utmost confidence and not a shred of evidence: The neurons produce Consciousness, the essential belief of most of the major players in this field, Bernard Baars, Anthony Freeman, David Chalmers and a host of other thinkers, well the neurons are not producing Consciousness.
f. Finally, the Penrose/Hammeroff model for explaining Consciousness, attracting great interest because of its quasi—quantum base. Rogers’s theory falls by his own axe, he claims that “physics has missed it, has failed to find not the road to reality, and does not even know what physical reality really is.”
But as radical as Roger Penrose is, he is unable to escape from some basic assumptions about the primacy of matter. When he gives his own theory of Consciousness, he begins with “Consciousness is out there, in physical reality, just like everything else.” But I say: If we do not know what physical reality really is, physical reality can just as well be “out there” in Consciousness, and virtually all models for explaining Consciousness, are already expressions of Consciousness.
And so, where lies the road to Reality? It lies through Consciousness.
A passage in scripture, Jesus: Straight is the gate, and narrow that leads to life, and few there are who find it. The near-death experience is that straight gate, between a world of Appearances and false theories based on them, and the deepest reality and the truth of the Universe.
It is time to open up the flaps of our Cartesian box, and move into the greater, wider and bigger picture of things. We Ourselves, are the keys to the truth of the Universe.
We are not the only being on the planet with Consciousness, we are simply the only being on the planet where we have access to the inner side of things. And we are the keys to the whole rest of the Universe.
Evolution makes us continuous with everything else, what we find in ourselves is there in everything else as well.
And so: A new Copernican revolution among our basic terms, matter is not producing Consciousness, Consciousness is producing matter.
And so, stay tuned!