Home » Intelligent Design, Neuroscience, News » “Problem of consciousness” not likely to be solved soon – neuroscientist

“Problem of consciousness” not likely to be solved soon – neuroscientist

signals despite corpus callosum deficit

From an interview with Ralph Adolphs (Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Caltech), in Current Biology, Volume 21, Issue 21, R874-R875, 8 November 2011:

What are the major unsolved questions in cognitive neuroscience?

To my mind there’s one that stands above all else: how is the biology of the brain related to the psychology of the mind? In short, the problem of consciousness — which is actually several problems. There are still many people who find it silly to investigate this, or who honestly don’t seem to understand what the puzzlement is all about. Well, I think there’s a very deep puzzle there, and one we are unlikely to solve soon, and maybe will never solve — but that’s an empirical question. Throughout my career I think I’ve been fascinated by thinking about the conscious experiences of the research participants with whom I worked. When I worked with Damasio in Iowa, I asked myself that about the lesion patients whom I was working with (and concluded that I was incapable of ever knowing what it would be like to be most of them). In my lab at Caltech, we work with fascinating populations like high-functioning autism and agenesis of the corpus callosum. What is it like to be them, what is their experience of the world? I am fascinated by this question.

The handy term for the “problem” he is describing is qualia, which just means that we can’t know what it feels like to be you, thinking about – say – your home town. No way of approaching the problem is likely to work, because there is no objective way of being subjective.

That’s why we’re not sure it should be called a problem at all. It’s like dividing by zero. It doesn’t work, but that doesn’t change anything for the multitudes of math concepts that do work.

By the way, re corpus callosum, better read this.

Hat tip Creation-Evolution Headlines.

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20 Responses to “Problem of consciousness” not likely to be solved soon – neuroscientist

  1. News, why are my posts now subjected to a 24 hour ‘awating moderation’ period before they appear?
    UD Response: Because you are boorish, rude and uncivil. The moderation queue is not 24 hours.

    That long delay makes it impossible to participate in a conversation, or make pertinent points in a timely manner.
    UD Response: Well, it makes it harder, not impossible. That’s why you shouldn’t be boorish, rude and uncivil and get yourself placed in the moderation queue.

    If you want to silence my dissenting opinions just make the public announcement and ban me. Or simple ask me to leave and I will – I respect and understand UD is a private board. But please be upright enough to tell me in person. This silent ‘partial’ ban is beneath the dignity of any reputable discussion board.
    UD Response: If we wanted to silence you, we would have banned you. And make no mistake that remains an option for extreme cases. Instead of silencing you we decided it was best to place you in the moderation queue. That way any civil and polite comments you care to make will be posted, and we can eliminate your boorish, rude and uncivil comments.

  2. 2

    At the risk of becoming subject to moderation myself, I have to point out the double standards that operate here regarding boorish, rude and uncivil posting. Sanctions generally apply to rude pro-evolution commenters while many anti-evolution commenters are rarely moderated or banned.

  3. PfxG: what you say has truth to it but it should be noted that a number of pro-ID posters have been banned and/or placed in moderation: ilion and mung for example.
    I do wonder if it would be helpful if a banned list was available for public viewing, like telic thoughts
    That being said I, as a pro-ider, feel it is important that BOTH sides conduct themselves civilly and intelligently.
    I have lurked for a long time and I must say your posts stand in stark contrast to GinoB. I’m aware that you are not particularly ID sympathetic but I dont recall a post from you that displays the sheer rudeness of Gino.

  4. 4
    material.infantacy

    I think you meant to say that the pro-design crowd are cut a little more slack than anti-design folks (design deniers).

    The real question is, so what? This isn’t “Occupy UD.” Anyone who keeps a civil tongue has little to worry about here. Those of us who sometimes don’t, or rarely do, are likely on watch. For want of ammunition, design deniers are likely to get picked off first. C’est la vie.

    This environment favors the selection of pro-design organisms. This niche isn’t for everyone, apparently. Feints in the vein of, “I hope I don’t get moderated for politely expressing my opinion here,” is how rude innuendo is obtusely disguised as a sincere comment.

  5. Being banninated from UD is a cheap game our opponents play. Very often, they wear it as a badge of honor as they pat themselves on the back. Moderation on this forum is a practical necessity given the subject matter. There could not possibly be a more viceral and complex topic than the relationship between God, man, and man’s history. Add to that the unquestioned belief by 90% of the opponents that visit here, who are entirely convinced that ID is nothing but Creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Many think they are therefore doing service to reason by their actions. So armed with such a mandate, they never think twice about venting their spleens.

  6. Getting back to “the problem of consciousness”, isn’t it obvious that consciousness is only a “problem” for a materialist, that is, someone who posits matter as the ground of being, from and by which all else must be explained? If one accepts consciousness itself as the ground of being, then consciousness is not a problem, it is a fact. And it IS a fact. It is the fundamental fact of human existence. If you consider the question carefully, you will see that the material world is actually secondary to consciousness. The reality of a material world is a conclusion that is drawn from our experience, and experience (thoughts, emotions, sense impressions, memory, intentionality) is entirely within consciousness.

    The question then is how does the physical world arise from consciousness? And with respect to the brain, relevant questions are those like, “How does consciousness get tied up with a brain, and what exactly is the nature of the relationship?” Another question is, “If consciousness is the ground of being, then what is the material world, anyway?” Personally, I side with Bishop Berkeley, Jonathan Edwards, Richard L. Thompson, and Bruce Gordon, among others: there actually isn’t a material world at all. It’s all virtual reality, with the mind of God playing the role of the computer that controls, regulates, and integrates the virtual world we inhabit when we have physical bodies.

    On the other hand (the third hand, actually), if you are a dualist, like Descartes, then like him, you have the problem of how can two totally different “substances” (mind and matter) possibly interact at all? This is classically known as the “Mind/Body” problem, and to my knowledge, no one has ever proposed a satisfactory solution to it.

  7. Yes, I’m aware of Ilion and Mung’s banning. However, it’s still clear that the line pro-ID commenters need to cross is much further out there than pro-evolution commenters. Your idea of a banned list is good, it would make matters much more open. In fact, such a list already exists here.

  8. If simple disagreement is construed as rude innuendo here, or “intellectual dishonesty” as I’ve seen it said, then no wonder so many pro-evolution commenters are banned. Yes, I am pointing out the hypocrisy of the moderation here. Yes, this is not pleasant for some to hear. I’m trying not to be boorish, rude and uncivil when I do so, but if disagreement with the party line is considered rude, then all us pro-evolution commenters are on borrowed time.

    I’d like to point out that I’m not particularly fussed about rude posters. Just double standards in expulsion.

  9. There could not possibly be a more viceral and complex topic than the relationship between God, man, and man’s history.

    I thought the topic here at UD was discussion of alternative scientific explanations for changes in biological organisms over time?

  10. I am certainly prepared to leave it at that…unless you want to take pot-shots at the low hanging targets.

    I guess that answers that.

  11. I cringe when I see certain pro-ID posters call people idiots, morons, etc, for that very reason.

    One benefit of having such discussions on the internet is that we can minimize displays of emotion. If we’re annoyed, frustrated, or even angry we can can choose whether we wish to reflect it or, more often, choose not to.

    Name-calling indicates that we are frustrated and would prefer to beat the other person over the head with a club if we were in person. Frustration and even anger are normal, but there is no excuse for venting them without polite restraint.

    If I ever get so frustrated that I call someone a moron or an idiot, I expect to get called on it.

  12. 12

    Prof, that’s just precious.

    You begin by characterizing ID supporters as “anti-evolution.” I’d say that you should know better, but I think you already do. How long have you been commenting here?

    Then you insult the blog by suggesting that you risk being banned for politely expressing your opinion about moderation policies. Again I’d say that you should know better, but you already do.

    When called on it, you feign offense. If you were merely pointing out some perceived injustice in moderation, I would have commented differently. You lot have been whining about moderation policies since…forever.

    You weren’t expressing simple disagreement. You were engaging in innuendo. You know damn well the behaviors on display when the mods finally do ban someone.

    One can certainly be rude without being boorish, as was demonstrated in your brief comment. You followed up by doubling down on your initial charge of “double standard” by accusing the mods of outright hypocrisy, so apparently you didn’t feel the need to tread so lightly after all.

    How very clever.

  13. 13

    When called on it, you feign offense.

    I didn’t mean to sound offended at all. I wonder what made you think that?

    How very clever.

    Thanks! I’ll take that in the spirit in which I’m sure it was not intended.

  14. 14

    … unless you want to take pot-shots at the low hanging targets

    You must admit, it was pretty irresistable. :)

  15. So was this.

    But since I answered to yours, why not return the favor and answer mine.

  16. 16
    material.infantacy

    LOL! Of every charge I made, you only denied feigning offense. Welcome to the ranks of UD’s Polite Interlocutors.

    At least you’ve been a good sport about it. Let it not be said otherwise. And I applaud your original effort to mask your disdain with a patina of civility.

    Sincerely,
    m.i.

  17. 17

    Semiotics is not my field. Anyway, I see that Elizabeth Liddle has addressed it at length on her blog. Some questions have arisen there, and I’m surprised you haven’t engaged with the discussion there.

  18. 18

    @ Bruce David: Personally, I side with Bishop Berkeley, Jonathan Edwards, Richard L. Thompson, and Bruce Gordon, among others: there actually isn’t a material world at all. It’s all virtual reality, with the mind of God playing the role of the computer that controls, regulates, and integrates the virtual world we inhabit when we have physical bodies.

    Jonathan Edwards said that?

  19. Well, the only one of the four who actually used the term “virtual reality” was Richard L. Thompson. However, virtual reality is just a metaphor for the idea that physical reality doesn’t exist as such. There is only our sense impressions, which create the illusion that there something “out there” corresponding to what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. And God organizes it all so that all our separate experiences of reality dovetail sufficiently for the illusion that we inhabit the same pre-existing physical reality to be maintained.

    I was surprised to learn that Jonathan Edwards was in that camp myself. I got that piece of information from Bruce Gordon’s essay, “A Quantum-Theoretic Argument against Naturalism” in The Nature of Nature, p. 203. I haven’t actually read Edward’s philosophy, but I have read the other three, and studied Berkeley’s philosophy extensively.

  20. Video – Is Consciousness Definable?
    http://www.closertotruth.com/v.....nable-/343

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