The Next Big Bang: Human Consciousness & the Universe (The limitations of science)

by dhw, Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 12:58 (238 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Another essay on consciousness as a part of the universe; discusses panpsychism:

QUOTE: "Then there’s a third option which is gaining ground in some scientific circles, panpsychism. In this view, the entire universe is inhabited by consciousness.

Thank you for this interesting article. Panpsychism is indeed the third option we have been discussing, and I’d like to comment on a few of the quotes.

QUOTE: "Truth be told, panpsychism sounds very much like what the Hindus and Buddhists call the Brahman, the tremendous universal Godhead of which we are all a part.

The moment one associates panpsychism with a name, a God, an established religion, one immediately classifies it and endows it with attributes. When you and I discuss your God, David, we both do the same (although you don’t like to think you do), but if we strip the panpsychist theory down to its essentials, we have nothing more than consciousness. Let’s stick to that for the moment.

QUOTE3: “[Wheeler] called his theory the “participatory anthropic principle,” which posits that a human observer is key to the process. […] In his view, much like the Buddhist one, nothing exists unless there is a consciousness to apprehend it.

While acknowledging the mysteries of the quantum world, I find this so contrary to everyday experience, history and common sense that I reject it totally. I do not believe the universe, dinosaurs and the Grand Canyon do not/did not exist until or unless we observe(d) them. My usual response to this is to invite the believer to step in front of a bus, and then kid himself it did not exist until he got hit.

QUOTE: "Neuroscientist Christof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is another supporter of panpsychism. Koch says that the only theory we have to date about consciousness is, it’s a level of awareness about one’s self and the world. Biological organisms are conscious because when they approach a new situation, they can change their behavior in order to navigate it, in this view.

This is crucial to my own “cellular intelligence” hypothesis concerning evolution, except that I would restrict “awareness about one’s self” to humans and perhaps some of our fellow animals. Organisms know what they are doing, but it seems unlikely that they know that they know what they are doing.

QUOTE: "Unlike their hotter sisters, cooler stars may move faster due to “the emission of a uni-directional jet.” Such stars emit a jet early on in their creation. Matloff suggests that this could be an instance of the star consciously manipulating itself, in order to gain speed.

This is the level at which my own scepticism begins to set in. It raises the question of a borderline between consciousness and non-consciousness which none of us can draw. Does inorganic matter “know” what it’s doing (without knowing that it knows)?

QUOTE: “So, for the sake of argument, if consciousness is a property that arises on the subatomic level with a confluence of particles, how do these tiny little bits of consciousness coalesce?

I don’t have a problem if the “particles” are organic – i.e. cells communicating and cooperating – but that is a giant step away from inorganic particles combining to form living cells.

I simply can’t latch onto Giulio Tononi’s theory of a physical body that radiates different levels of non-physical awareness into physical bodies from a physical location. At least David’s God doesn’t have a material and therefore destructible body.
Dr Tononi wants to measure consciousness according to “how much control a being can enact over itself or objects around it. The theory separates intelligence from consciousness…." He therefore confines consciousness to living beings. It would perhaps be interesting to know how he separates consciousness from intelligence and from sheer physical limitations during his observations of how much control, say, bacteria have over themselves and the objects around them.

DAVID’s comment: And I believe in panentheism, God within and without the universe.

The expression is far too glib for me. I would like to know what you mean by “without” (presumably = outside). If your God is what you often refer to as a universal consciousness, what is the “withoutness” or “outside” of the universe? But if he is a consciousness that is present all through the universe, that is the actual meaning of panpsychism. And if you stay true to your principles and reject any humanization of your God, and you stop calling it “Him” and “God”, then it will be panpsychist consciousness without attributes.

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