Is the Brain all that you are, or is there something more, beyond the physical structure. Is there something else that accounts for thought?
For any of you, who have ever stared eye to eye with another living creature, and sensed that there is something more staring back beyond two eyes, perhaps a consciousness or dare I say an intelligence, invariably you’ll question if you’re just anthropomorphizing the subject or is there something more. There may very well be a reason why, when you look into another creature’s eyes, you sense that there is something more looking back at you.
In a recent Podcast from Mind Matters with Robert J. Marks and Michael Egnor, they discussion how many famous neuroscientists became dualists. Dualists in the field of neurosurgery are neuroscientist that have come to the concluded that there is something about human beings that goes beyond matter. Within the field of neuroscience, most are materialist, simply put, states that the brain is the entire person, there is nothing more beyond it. Any sense that there is something more, is just an illusion.
Many materialists feel that the attempts to prove there is something more beyond the brain, arises from our fear of death and at best is a coping method to allay the anxiety associated with the inevitable, while denying the finality of death. I have a different view of this of course. I believe that those who adopt the materialist view, desire to soothe their own issues, preferring to take comfort in that these questions of the mind and consciousness, dare I say, of the spirit and the existence of the soul, have been answered by the scientific method. They prefer to believe that they have squared it all away, “nothing more to look at here… Let’s all move an along”.
In many ways I understand the desire, to square it away. It is difficult to define and currently, impossible to measure with our current instruments.
If you accept the concept of dualism, and follow it to its natural conclusion, the door is open for panpsychiem.
Panpsychism is the view that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and present, appearing, or found everywhere feature of reality. In short, everything by default has some type of consciousness or awareness of its environment in some form or fashion. I find this to be a very fascinating concept whose description has many shades of what George Lucas described as the “Force” in his “Star Wars” trilogy, not in the sense that it enables you to lift or move objects, but the idea all living things have a level of consciousness.
Giulio Tononi, proposed in 2004, the Intergraded Information Theory which in short suggests that consciousness can be quantified by the amount of data that it has or carries. By this construct, a mouse has consciousness, but is limited by its brain’s capacity. The human brain would have greater consciousness due to capacity. Tononi, created a formula to measure this consciousness. I’ll provide a Wikipedia link to a version of his Intergraded Information Theory. As you would expect, his theory has its critics for various reasons. My criticism is that it does not go far enough. What is only hinted at, is the true nature of the system’s ability to store information, which I believe, if pursued, would conclude that there is more information being collected and stored than there is capacity. If information is not lost, as some models suggest, that means the information simply transits format to what we would consider nonlocal storage. We have models of this today in modern computer systems, we referred to them as cloud services. As I write, the data is only temporarily stored locally on the device that I am working from and automatically saves the information in the form of a file. Once I close the program, the latest version is available on a remote server. If I login to another device with my credentials, my files become available to me, which allows me to continue to work from a completely different, yet compatible device. There are several ways this could have been done without using a remote cloud server. I could save the file on a removable memory medium and physically transport it from device to device if the memory medium has sufficient storage space. It may very well be that some part of our consciousness transits from this construct, to another storage device or type of container, which could explain the non-local information retrieved during near death experiences (NDE’s).
I believe we are at some level, unconsciously aware of the true nature of reality, which is being replicated in every structure around us, even by our own inventions and innovations, we are just too close to see it. It would almost seem that something has left us hints to the true nature of reality. This idea creates a vexing conundrum, either the hints or clues are a natural byproduct, like that of any process and because of its intangible nature we are unsure what to make of what we are sensing, thus different interpretations are possible or there is an intelligence which has left the clues behind for a reason. This latter thought is especially difficult because it leads to the question of why.
The brain, delivers on the representation of yin and yang, being both the prison and emancipator.
Links to the subjects discussed in this article:
Panpsychism – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panpsychism
Intergraded Information Theory – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_information_theory
The Force (George Lucas’s Star Wars) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Force