Memo from materialists: Science is over. Oh and, by the way, consciousness doesn’t matter
|February 25, 2012||Posted by News under Mind, Neuroscience|
The multiverse physicists have announced that science is over. Now, philosophy prof Colin McGinn decides that consciousness is not only an insoluble mystery but not very important anyway:
In “All machine and no ghost?” (New Statesman, February 20, 2012), Colin McGinn writes,
Some modern philosophers pride themselves on their “naturalism” but real naturalism begins with a proper perspective on our specifically human intelligence. Palaeoanthropologists have taught us that the human brain gradually evolved from ancestral brains, particularly in concert with practical toolmaking, centring on the anatomy of the human hand. This history shaped and constrained the form of intelligence now housed in our skulls (as the lifestyle of other species form their set of cognitive skills). What chance is there that an intelligence geared to making stone tools and grounded in the contingent peculiarities of the human hand can aspire to uncover all the mysteries of the universe? Can omniscience spring from an opposable thumb? It seems unlikely, so why presume that the mysteries of consciousness will be revealed to a thumb-shaped brain like ours?
The “mysterianism” I advocate is really nothing more than the acknowledgment that human intelligence is a local, contingent, temporal, practical and expendable feature of life on earth – an incremental adaptation based on earlier forms of intelligence that no one would regard as faintly omniscient. The current state of the philosophy of mind, from my point of view, is just a reflection of one evolutionary time-slice of a particular bipedal species on a particular humid planet at this fleeting moment in cosmic history – as is everything else about the human animal. There is more ignorance in it than knowledge.
His summary of the various positions misses the mark on dualism: Dualism is focused – as a science should be – on how consciousness interacts with the environment. Other positions are focused on denying one or another aspect of the encounter.