Monday, June 23, 2014

The role of consciousness in anesthesia

Often, when materialists confidently dismiss information that seems to originate outside the measurable physical world (ghosts, visions, NDEs), they forget that the *observer* of these phenomena--consciousness--has yet to be scientifically explained. Scientists do not even know how anesthesia works. It's easy to forget--yet useful to remember--especially when the debunker lectures consciousness about what it cannot possibly observe.

The above-linked article is an interesting read. We barely know how sleep works--just barely--but anesthesia?  Sobering thought (though we're fairly sure how intoxication works).  The article seeks to reassure us, but I'm not so reassured.

Doctors attempted to put me under only once, without success. Prior to the procedure, practically everyone said, "Oh, you won't remember a thing. You'll wake up in the recovery room and think you've been out for a few seconds."

Only I didn't. When it became apparent that the first round of drugs didn't knock me out, in went another needle. "You've had some high-powered anesthesia..." muttered the physician, letting the thought dangle.  But I was still conscious; just slightly disassociated.  I saw and felt everything. "You're fighting the anesthesia," the physician finally warned--with the implicit assumption that, somehow, becoming unconscious was something that consciousness should just voluntarily do.

I hadn't really thought of this experience much until I read the io9 article.  And I wonder, now, why did anesthesia not work on me when it works on everyone else?  Is there something different about my consciousness?  Was it a matter (no pun) of the anesthesia failing to work on my physical mechanism, or was it my conscious refusal to allow it to?  Did my consciousness trump matter?

Or, carrying this mind experiment further, is it possible that our concept of consciousness is an artificial construct?  Is what we assume to be consciousness merely our illusion of what it should be?  If consciousness is an artificial creation, who is the creator?  And have we hypnotized ourselves into accepting a certain limited brand of consciousness when in fact we are capable of more?  (My personal answer to the last question is "yes," for many reasons.)