Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Adventures In The Hard Problem Of Science

I've spent a depressing week or so reading about recent frauds and scandals in NDE research, along with skeptical attacks by various online writing heads and self-anointed proxies of officialdom, so it was refreshing to read a recent discussion about the hard problem of science by cutting edge thinkers who seem to know what they're talking about.  I've blogged about this before, I know (though it's debatable whether anyone read it), but it's nice to see some constructive thinking for a change. To sum it up: for centuries, science has avoided any discussion of consciousness--largely because science has proven unable to explain the phenomenon--but lately, a few scientific souls have ventured, tentatively, the possibility that our consciousness is not rooted in the brain, but originates "elsewhere."

Cited in the article were two references to brain mapping:

Christof Koch, the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and a key player in the Obama administration’s multibillion-dollar initiative to map the human brain, is about as credible as neuroscientists get. But, he told me in December: “I think the earliest desire that drove me to study consciousness was that I wanted, secretly, to show myself that it couldn’t be explained scientifically. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I wanted to find a place where I could say: OK, here, God has intervened. God created souls, and put them into people.” Koch assured me that he had long ago abandoned such improbable notions. Then, not much later, and in all seriousness, he said that on the basis of his recent research he thought it wasn’t impossible that his iPhone might have feelings.

As I've mentioned before, the concept of "brain mapping" is a recent one... Though I haven't checked, my hunch is that it was not a widespread concept until very recently--when President Obama launched his brain mapping initiative.  Yet it was predicted in "Seth Speaks" fifty years ago:

[In the twenty-first century] new areas will be activated in the brain to physically take care of them. Physically then, brain mappings will be possible in which past-life memories are evoked. All of these alterations are spiritual changes in which the meaning of religion will escape organizational bounds, become a living part of individual existence, and where psychic frameworks rather than physical ones form the foundations for civilization.

Interestingly enough, while the scientific cutting edge is toying with the idea that consciousness does not originate in the brain, "Seth" suggests that brain mappings will uncover currently unknown areas of consciousness that will indicate that "we" are more than our consciousness

Indeed, the most glaring oversight (to me) in the Guardian's analysis is the assumption that there is *a* consciousness--a singular thing that either you have, or don't have.  Anyone who has dealt closely with mental illness knows this simply isn't so. A human being can walk, talk, and behave as if on autopilot--yet retain no conscious awareness of the behavior and will deny any memory of it. Consciousness can leave the physical body, and, on rare occasions, an "alien" consciousness can invade the body and manipulate it. Consciousness can disintegrate, reassemble, throw off fragments of "itself," and reassemble into new personality gestalts.  What about quality of consciousness?  What about degrees of awareness?  Is a stupid and unaware consciousness the same "thing" as an evolved and aware one?  Is autism spectrum--a type of consciousness that interacts with our world in radically nonconventional ways--a "different" type of consciousness?

I first read Michael Newton's ideas of the "soul" originating from elsewhere and incarnating in a new physical body about a decade ago, and I still haven't made peace with the idea. Many people--not just materialists--resist the idea that the "I" that looks through our eyes and is largely synonymous with the physical body, does not, in fact, originate in the physical body. And the possibility that this "I" is in fact a blending of several consciousness--a "spiritual" one, a "body consciousness," plus random conscious "fragments" that we might pick up like viruses--is almost repellant. Yet--the logical, analytical part of me--whoever I really am--has to admit that it's the best explanation for the infinite varieties of conscious experiences that we have barely begun to acknowledge.