Friday, August 27, 2010

Human Consciousness and the end of Materialism

I. Introduction - Scope

For many years now the sector of science called “neuroscience” tries to solve the mystery of human consciousness. Even though there is some progress in the analysis of the mechanisms of our brain, the key to human consciousness remains well hidden. “At least for now”, some scientists say…

This article does not attempt to provide an exhaustive record of all knowledge existing concerning the human mind. My goal is to just provide some insight on why the explanation of human consciousness lies beyond the limits of exact science as it is currently based on materialism. It is shown that only a drastic paradigm-shift of science away from the materialistic dogma can help us truly understand the nature of what seems to make us who we really are.

Due to the nature of the subject, this article (knol) is constantly updated. Any comments from readers are welcomed and will be answered as soon as I have the time.

Electrons and electomagnetic fields race through our brain.
Is that "consciouness"...? Or is consciousness controlling those electrons?

II. Why neuroscience will never explain consciousness

Some scientists today believe that they can explain the “mind” by just analyzing the mechanisms of the “brain”. They seem to believe that by finding how neurons interact with each other will lead them to fully understand the nature of human consciousness. This view is based on the dogma of materialism. And it is the main purpose of true philosophy to find, pinpoint and show the underlying dogmas of all views, criticize them and discuss about them. I hereby provide a list of arguments that show why human consciousness cannot be explained by merely explaining the chemical-physical mechanisms of neuron activity in our brain. I do not claim that everything I write is correct, or that I hold the key to ultimate truth (if such thing even exists). But I do call every reader to read carefully and think of what dogmas his opinion is based on. Simply knowing that makes us better humans.

1. Finding the correlation of brain and mind does not mean we found the cause of the existence of mind or consciousness

There is a deeper problem concerning the human consciousness. It may be that the subjectivity of consciousness and the lack of a formal definition do not prevent neuroscience from finding the "Neural Correlates of Consciousness" (also known as NCC). But what does it actually mean to find these correlates? Ideally, neuroscience should explain facts about consciousness in terms of facts about the neural activity. If not then we are only rationally justified in believing that brain and mind are somehow correlated, not that human consciousness is in fact a wholly natural phenomenon. [1]
Christof Koch, a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology, is a serious scientist who takes consciousness seriously. He seeks what he calls the “neural correlates of consciousness,” which generally means the kinds of electrical activities that occur in the brain each and every time that a certain conscious experience occurs. Koch has made the neural correlates of consciousness real science by bringing progressively greater precision to assessing what’s happening in the brain, in real time, when subjective experiences are sensed or felt. But it important to note that correlation is not cause, as Koch correctly points out. And the correlations so far describe specific sensations, not a unified consciousness. [2] The difference is important to note. It is a mistake to confuse one thing for another: many things can be interconnected but that does not automatically create a cause-effect relationship between them. In any event, can science, sticking with pure biology and its underlying chemistry and physics, produce a full theory of mind or consciousness? The so far correlations found do not prove anything concerning the true nature of consiousness. We are still far away from knowing what the cause of consciousness is, let alone say that it is only a "natural" cause based on electricity currents. Confusing correlation with cause is a "mistake" or - even worse - an offspring of hard materialistic dogmatism...
After all, who can say that a thought is made up of electons without challenging his/her logic? For example can the thought "the circumference of a circle is equal to 2πr" be made up of electricity? Is a thought made up of something material? How can that be? Electrons are electrons. Neurons are neurons. A thought is a thought and cannot be made of the abovementioned materials, because simply we understand thought as something different than these "things". Many electrons form "many electrons", not a human "thought". Can really the thought "I want to eat" be made of things you actually eat?

2. Neuroscience seems to explain only things defined in functional terms. Consciousness cannot be given a functional definition so it cannot be neuroscientifically explained

Neuroscience is very useful and can of course be used to explain many things. For instance, memory in sea slugs is explainable in terms of synaptic strength and gene expression. But it seems only things defined in functional terms can be explained (e.g. the neural mechanism that explains memory function). The problem is then the following: consciousness cannot be given a functional definition so it cannot be neuroscientifically explained. [1]  
Assume that we have discovered some neural mechanism. Or even better, assume we have discovered all the neural mechanisms that exist. These mechanisms will explain a whole host of psychological functions (e.g. the workings of memory). Among these there will be functions we associate with consciousness. For example, the function of bodily damage to bring us in an internal state that causes us to withdraw our hand form the fire, where we associate our internal state with being in the conscious state of feeling pain. The problem is that the neural mechanisms only concern the causal transactions among states and not the nature of the states themselves. That is, the neural story fails to capture what is distinctive about pain, namely that it hurts. We can put this differently. The neural mechanistic explanation of the supposed pain would work just as well for a creature that is like us physically but that doesn’t feel any hurt when it “suffers” bodily damage. That creature could have the same mechanism to indicate that it suffers damage, but have no "hurt" as part of its "pain" definition. This shows that the neural explanation is blind to the state of consciousness: its best explanations can ever only capture input-out causal relations. In that way neuroscience may explain aspects of consciousness, even if it cannot ultimately place consciousness in the material world. [1]
In order to be within the scope of scientific inquiry, consciousness must have some functional aspect and yet people argue that it hasn’t. Whereas we have good reason to believe consciousness is a material phenomenon since it correlates so well with neural activity, we also have reason to believe the material and the conscious belong to different levels. [1]

Many electrons form a set of "many electrons".
Many neurons form a set of "many neurons".
Is is "logical" to claim that a thought is made up of electrons?
Many electrons cannot be a "thought"...

3. No matter how good the correlations of brain to mind are, they could never literally be "mind"

David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher of mind, claims that consciousness is not an accidental derivative of reality working randomly but a fundamental part of reality existing permanently. For decades, there had been a progressive demystification of consciousness. But for Chalmers no matter how much neuroscience we learn, we will never explain consciousness. No matter how good the correlations of brain to mind are, they could never literally be "mind". It seems that there must be something extra in consciousness, which can never be explained by anything physical, chemical, or biological (at least on those sciences in the way they are defined today).

A good example would be the following:
Water comes from pipes (correlation).
If the water pipes are damaged, there is less or no water.
Yet the pipes do not generate water. Water is not identical to a property of the pipes.The pipes are conduits of water.
Likewise the brain is a conduit of consciousness. [3]

4. Self-consciousness feels like more than the sum of its cells (or why reductionism is wrong or why neurobiology does not explain the qualitative properties of consciousness)

Neuroscience is reductionist, and it plans to "solve" consciousness by finding its phsyical substrate. But this method is hopelessly flawed, and for a simple reason: self-consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. Any explanation of our experience solely in terms of our neurons will never explain our experience, because we don't experience our neurons. To believe otherwise is to indulge in a simple category mistake. [4] Our experience of us being "us" is something that transcends the sum of each individual neuron activity, it is something more than the set of electical currents passing through neuron connections. I do not know the whole explanation now, but if we believe what neurologists say, we could have a Printed Circuit Board with specific design "feel" and realize "itself" like we do...However a PCB cannot "feel" and cannot have a consciousness, for the same reason that a stone - no matter how well it is designed - cannot have "life" in it...You cannot explain apples with oranges.
Another attempt to counter reductionism comes from a broad category of theorists who look to the relatively new science of complexity, or emergence, to explain the brain’s relation to the mind. For these scientists and philosophers, the notion that consciousness emerges from the activities of the brain is not in question. But to say that consciousness can be reduced to the brain would be a category mistake. Emergence theory holds that interactions between lower-order phenomena can give birth to higher-order phenomena with properties which cannot themselves be reduced to the lower-order interactions.
Consciousness is clearly an emergent property. The latest evidence is that there is no master site of consciousness or control in the brain. If that is the case looking to the subatomic level is clearly a move in the wrong direction. It makes as much sense as trying to understand the properties of water by studying hydrogen and oxygen. Because water emerges from the combination of the two, studying its components tells us little about water itself. Just as the wetness of water cannot be found in the hydrogen and oxygen molecules that make it up, so the complex qualities of mind, like reason, decision-making, reflection, and emotion cannot be found in the behavior of our neurons. The advantage of this way of thinking is that while it does not deny the biological roots of mind, it nonetheless acknowledges the validity of higher orders of human experience. [5]
During the compilation of this knol, millions of neurons are working in my brain. Molecules use chemicals to transfer messages and everything in my brain is working to produce the result you see. At the same time, on another (higher) level, I am thinking about what to write next. I decide what to do, why I want to finish this article. Confusing what happens at an microscopic level with what decisions I make as a person at a higher level is simply a mistake.

“if mental phenomena are in fact nothing more than
emergent properties and functions of the brain,
their relation to the brain is fundamentally unlike every
other emergent property and function in nature.”
--B. Allan Wallace, The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 136.

Another problem stated by David Chalmers (1995) is that while cognitive neuroscience can explain how the brain enables informational processing of the mind, it is incapable of explaining the qualitative experience that accompanies it, nor the mere fact that it does. No matter what knowledge we gain about the visual processing of colour and how precicely we are able to describe it, the quality of sensory experience of red cannot be known unless experienced. As ancient Sufi would say about coffee: “He who tastes, knows; he who tastes not, knows not”. [6]

And we should not forget about subjectivity. No other emergent property (e.g. liquidity) has subjectivity. [3] However subjectivity is part of human consciousness.

III. Arguments in favor of a non-materialistic explanation

As scientists try to unlock the mysteries of consciousness, the old debate about monism-dualism comes into the surface. Here I present some cases and evidence that could be used in favor of a more idealistic (i.e. non-materialistic) explanation of consciousness. Science tries to explain phenomena that are spiritual with tools that are designed to unlock the mysteries of matter. If a scientific theory has the underlying dogma that no spirit exists, then how can it find spirit even if it is there? Quantum mechanics and Near-Death Experiences provide a strange hint towards what seems to be the right direction. Note the use of the word "seems". It is true that we can not be certain for the nature of consciousness with the things we know now and that is exactly the point of the article: to show that research on this topic must continue with a mind free of any dogmas and prejudice. And the belief in the non-existence of spirit can be as dogmatic as the belief in the existence of spirit...

1. Near-Death Experiences (NDE)

Perhaps the most intriguing challenge to the neuroscientific mainstream is emerging from the growing body of research into what physician Raymond Moody dubbed “near-death experiences” or NDEs. Throughout the ages and across cultures, people have reported a variety of mystical phenomena surrounding the dying process. But with the technological explosion of the twentieth century, one medical advance in particular has opened a significant window into the phenomenology of dying - namely, our ability to resuscitate people, to bring them back from the dead. [5]
Over the past several decades, a number of researchers have been exploring this terrain, yielding a remarkably consistent picture of what happens when people make a temporary sojourn through death’s door. Thanks to mass media coverage of the phenomenon, most of us are by now familiar with the basic outline. Upon being pronounced dead, the patient experiences themselves outside of the body witnessing the scene of the accident or operating room from above. From here they at some point begin moving into darkness, or sometimes a dark tunnel, at the other end of which they are met by deceased relatives and perhaps a “being of light” who then prompts them to undertake a review of their life. In most cases, there is an encounter with “the light” which is usually accompanied by feelings of overwhelming joy, love, and peace, after which they either discover or decide that it is not their time to die, and are returned to their body. Although not all NDEs contain all of the above elements (and in fact, some patients even report harrowing encounters with hellish realms quite the opposite of the more common positive NDE), for most who have the experience, it is a life-transforming event, leading to a radical change in values, and a loss of the fear of death. [5]
It’s easy to understand why these experiences would have such a profound psychological and spiritual impact. After an episode like that, who could doubt the existence of consciousness beyond the body and the reality of life after death? But as neuropsychiatrist and renowned near-death researcher Peter Fenwick points out, “the simple fact that people have these experiences does not in itself prove anything one way or the other regarding the existence of consciousness outside the brain”. Simply put, how do we know the NDE is not just a brain-generated illusion? According to the “dying brain hypothesis” as put forward by psychologist Susan Blackmore, all of the specific phenomena associated with the classic NDE can be accounted for by established brain responses to the “severe stress, extreme fear, and cerebral anoxia” that would naturally accompany a brush with death.
But riddled throughout the NDE literature are accounts that seem to suggest that there is more going on in these experiences than can as yet fit into the materialist picture. In one widely reported case, a post-operative patient correctly identified the nurse who had removed his dentures and the drawer she had placed them in—while he was in a coma. In another, an unconscious patient had an out-of-body experience after which she accurately described a tennis shoe she had seen on the outside ledge of a third-floor hospital window. The most dramatic case to date is probably the now famous story of an Arizona woman named Pam Reynolds. In a last-ditch attempt to save Reynolds from a brain aneurysm that threatened her life, doctors performed a rare and dangerous “standstill” operation in which they lowered her body temperature to below 60 degrees F, stopped her heart and respiration, and drained all the blood from her body and brain. She was, by any reasonable definition, brain dead. Her EEG was a flatline and her brainstem showed no response to the “clickers” placed in her ears. Yet, following her recovery from the operation, doctors learned that not only had she undergone a classic NDE, but she was also able to recount with astonishing accuracy many of the details of the operation, from the surgical instruments used to the conversation between the surgeons and nurses. [5]
All of the above have led prominent researchers, such as the late Nobel-winning neuroscientist Sir John Eccles, to propose a dualist view of the problem, arguing that the human mind and consciousness may in fact constitute a separate, undiscovered entity apart from the brain. [13]

“No single brain area is active when we are conscious and idle when we are not. Nor does a specific level of activity in neurons signify that we are conscious.  Nor is there a chemistry in neurons that always indicates consciousness.”
Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 109. [3]

2. Modern science and consciousness

For biologists like Rupert Sheldrake, one of the most powerful explanatory tools for understanding the workings of life and mind is the physical notion of the “field”, first introduced to science by Michael Faraday in the 19th century. “From electromagnetic fields, to gravitational fields to quantum matter fields, these field theories have taken over physics in such a way that everything is now seen as energy within fields”, according to Sheldrake. “As Sir Karl Popper put it, ‘Through modern physics, materialism has transcended itself, because matter is no longer the fundamental explanatory principle. Fields and energy are.’ So then when we come to the mind and the brain, what if the brain is a system that’s organized by fields as well?” [5] Explaining consciousness with energy fields is something that could provide an explanation that fits to many of the properties of consciousness we see.
However the main argument in favour of the non-materialistic nature of our consciousness comes from the modern quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics we have observed that the observer can affect the outcome of the experiment just by looking at it (see the infamous two slits experiment). However this kind of effect to the outcome of the experiment is not possible by material relactions between particles. Doesn't that mean that our consciousness is made of something non-materialistic as Neumann postulated?

In a few words, dualism has much less to account for than materialism. As Keith Ward said, unlike materialism, what dualism doesn’t have to do, is explain away the experience of every human being... [source] We are something that we all understand it to be something more than a sum of voltage or particles moving. And that is the best argument in favour of a more different view than pure materialism is...

A lot of debate is also going on related to Quantum Mechanics and the possible role of human consciousness on the result of a measurement. [11] One interpretation of the problem of the "wave-function collapse" states that the "thing" that actually causes the wave-function to collapse is the consciousness of the human observer. This is also known as the Wigner interpretation. [12] This theory is compatible with the empirical data (as any other of the more than 10 active potential quantum mechanics interpretations) [18] and it is more philosophically sound, solving many problems of quantum mechanics and the observation problem. Consider for example the Double Slit experiment. The electron actually "chooses" to be a wave or a particle only after the observation. However what is "observation"? If one considers observation to simply be the interaction with the measurement instruments (i.e. the interaction of non-living matter with non-living matter), then why the electron does not "collapse" to wave/particle due to its interaction with all the physical elements of the experiment apparatus?

It seems that consciousness actually causes the electron to "decide" and that is something one cannot ignore. Something similar to the above experiments and equally important, is observed in the Quantum Zeno effect in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. [19]

People I talk with about quantum mechanics just state that "Wigner's interpretation is old". But when I ask them why this means that it is wrong, I get silence for response. I do not claim of course that this is the ultimate and final solution to the measurement problem. However I do not stand listening to people who just reject specific interpretation simple because they do not fit to their beliefs. An interesting side-note is that Wigner actually shifted to more materialistic interpretations (and away from the idea that consciousness causes collapse) in his later years. And it is important to note that this did not happen because the interpretation proved wrong (in any case can that ever happen for an interpretation? – another interesting question) but partly because he was embarrassed that the “consciousness causes collapse” idea can lead to a kind of solipsism. [17] Dogmatism runs deep in modern scientific establishment and any idea that threatens it is either ridiculed or discarded. Changing way of thinking in the sciences of the mind will be difficult but in any case inevitable. Unless we believe that electrons can "observe"...

3. Function has many definitions

William James argued that all the problems arise from the monolithic way in which we understand the function of the brain. Materialistic science - he said - can think of the brain function only in the "function that produces something" way. However "function" can have other meanings as well. Many things function in a way to "allow things to happen", like when your hand pulls a trigger so as to remove the barrier holding the gun to go oof. Function could also mean "function to allow transmittion of things", like a coloured glass the function of which is to allow the transmission of light through it. The brain could act in one of the other two ways of "function", thus being simply a way to allow souls to manifest themselfs in this world. [14]

A very interesting theory indeed. Especially if one takes into account that it is true that modern science has a very frightening way to impose specific definitions on things which can be defined in many other ways...

4. The zombie argument

It must be said that the main argument in favor of a more spiritual interpretation of consciousness is related to what we "feel" every day: that we "are" our self and not a set of machinery working. Our brain is not a set of electrons, because a set of electrons is just "a set of electrons", not a thinking entity! We are not zombies, we are thinking human beings doing more than just feeling and reacting according to physical laws without being conscious of what we do. (source) (source)

If physicalism was right and if indeed everything we did could be explained by the action-reaction mechanistical model of our body, then there would be no room for what we feel and "know" that we have: that "thing" which makes us humans, that "thing" which makes us something more than simple zombies...

However we know that we do not just react to things like zombies.

We know that we do not just live according to automated processes and physical laws.
We know that we are who we are.

I know that I am "I" who speaks and not the physical laws governing the electrons in my brain. I know that I am the one writing now and not the physical laws governing the universe. I know that I have free will and that what I write here is "mine" (and not product of a machine in the form of a human body with no intellect or consciousness), as you know that what I write here is "mine" and you will write a comment to "me" complaining about what I wrote...

IV. There is more than explaining things bottom-up

As Templeton prize winning cosmologist George Ellis told: “The standard mistake that fundamentalists make is to posit a partial cause as the whole cause. Yes, the neurons are there. That's a partial cause of what's going on. What these neuroscientists are missing, though, is the top-down action in the brain, which is the part that gives life its actual meaning. And if you only choose to look from the bottom up you'll never see that meaning. Think of a jumbo jet flying. The bottom-up view of why it flies is because the particles are impacting the wing from below and moving a bit slower than the particles above the wing. The top-down version of why the plane is flying is because someone decided to build the plane, employed a lot of people to use computer aided design tools for the design of the plane and then a lot more people to build it. At the same level of why the plane is flying lies the fact that the pilot is sitting at the controls and is making it fly. Some physicists tend to miss both the same-level view and the topdown view.

And it's the same with these neuroscientists. To return to the flight analogy, they would say that all that's making the pilot fly is the firing of some neurons in his brain. But then they would be missing the fact that actually he had decided to be a pilot when he was a boy. He got enthusiastic about it; he raised the money for his training and all the rest of it. They just mess all of that up. They are unable to see those higher levels because they're focused on the lower levels.” [5]

Materialists point out that brain damage affects the mind (bottom-up causation). This does not show that the mind reduces to the brain: compare dropping a phone when someone is speaking. The phone does not generate the voice, it transmits it. The brain is necessary to transmit thoughts. It does not follow it generates them. The mind cannot be the same as the brain, because the mind ALSO has a top-down causal influence on the brain (cognitive therapies exploiting neuroplasticity) and the immune system (psychoneuroimmunology). [3]
Systematic neuroscientific study of the power of the mind has shown that “the results of these [neuroimaging] studies strongly supports the view that the subjective nature and intentional content…of mental processes (e.g. thoughts, feelings, beliefs, volition) significantly influence the functioning and plasticity of the brain…mentalistic variables have to be seriously taken into account to reach a correct understanding of the neurophysiological bases of behavior in humans.” [7] [3]
In other words, the mind can affect the brain and vice versa.

“willful, mindful effort can alter brain function, and...
such self-directed brain changes—neuroplasticity—are a genuine reality...
In other words, the arrow of causation relating brain and mind must be bidirectional.”
Jeff Schwartz, The Mind and the Brain, 94-95. [3]

Other problems addressed by mind-based therapies, verified by brain-scans include:

(1) Depression and sadness.
(2) Tourette’s syndrome.
(3) Stroke rehabilitation.
(4) Focal hand dystonia.
(5) Dyslexia.
(6) Panic disorder.
(7) Spider phobia.
(8) Stress reduction.
(9) Follow up care for cancer patients.
(10) The placebo effect. [3]
All these cases show that the mind can take control of the brain and lead to changes in it. So there is not only bottom-up, but also top-to-bottom causation. And this means that mind cannot be reduced to brain, it is not the same as the brain...

Materialism is the underlying dogma of modern neuroscience optimism that it will explain everything concerning the human mind

“The most striking feature is how much of mainstream [materialistic]
philosophy of mind is obviously false….[I]n the philosophy of mind,
obvious facts about the mental, such as that we all really do have subjective
conscious mental states…are routinely denied by many… of the advanced thinkers in the subject.”
John Searle, The Rediscovery of Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 3.

“Nowhere in the laws of physics or in the laws of the derivative sciences, chemistry and biology,
is there any reference to consciousness or mind.” 
John Eccles and Daniel Robinson, The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind
(New York: Free Press, 1984), 37.

All contemporary Neuroscience is based on classical Physics. No surprise that it derives a view of the brain as a set of mechanical laws: that is the "only" view that classical Physics can derive. No surprise that it cannot explain how consciousness arises, since there is no consciousness in classical Physics: it was erased from the study of matter by Descartes' dualism (that mind and matter are separate), on which foundations Newton erected classical Physics (the science of matter, which does not deal with mind). By definition, Descartes' dualism predicts that mind cannot be explain from matter, and Newton's Physics is an expression of dualism. Which means that dualism predicts that Newton's Physics cannot explain mind. Neuroscientists who are looking for consciousness miss that simple syllogism: they are looking for consciousness using a tool that is labeled "this tool does not deal with consciousness". [8]
For all the evidence neuroscience seems to present for the case that the brain creates the mind, the reality is that nobody has yet been able to explain, let alone demonstrate, how it could actually do such a thing. And although this doesn’t seem to be persuading the neuroscientific community at large to question its materialistic assumptions, there are a number of scientists on whom the implications of this fact have not been lost. Emerging from the frontiers of a variety of scientific fields, there is a growing movement of pioneers who are seeking to counter the reductionist tendency in biology in general and brain science in particular. What they all have in common is a passion for preserving our humanity in the face of the mechanistic / materialistic worldview, and a willingness to fiercely critique the dogmatic tendencies of current scientific orthodoxy. [5] One can read my Knol Limits of Science for more on the underlying dogmas of science and how the affect and distort our worldview.

Many scientists today presume materialism will provide the right answers prior to investigating the facts. Are they open to following the evidence wherever it leads? [3]
It is not that the methods and institutions of [empirical] science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes… [9] But only a bad detective argues “The murderer can’t be in the basement — because I’m afraid to look there.”

Some materialists admit that Materialism cannot be shown to be valid a priori.
Instead, they claim that Materialism has had such an impressive track-record in solving problems, we should assume it will continue to succeed.

But Materialism does not have such an impressive track-record:
  • Christian theology, not materialism, gave birth to modern science. Great scientists such as Newton, Kepler and Galileo tried to find the physical laws governing the universe in an attempt to unravel God's master plan of the cosmos...
  • Materialism conflicts with the rationality of science: The dogma "in the beginning there was nothing, nothing created something and now we have only some electorns and protons moving around randomly" cannot explain the existence of all-powerful universal physical laws.
  • Theism supports the rationality of science: The existence of universal physical laws can be explained by the theory of a First Cause or a great Designer.
  • The failure of materialism to account for the mind is one of the most staggering examples of how dogmas can hinder the progress of science if we fail to see them. [3]
  • Artificial Intelligence was supposed to deliver translating programs, robots that can interact freely with humans under any conditions and General Problem Solving algorithms. It has failed in all these, despite the initial optimist, which proved to be false. Even though computers can roughly translate very specific technical documents, they fail to comprehend the simplest of human dialogues... [10]
The abovementioned exaples show that materialism is not as "successful" as some people think. Science must re-examine its basis and see what it can "discover" if it turns away from the dogma that "only matter exists in the universe"... After all, the materialistic dogma could never give us the details of the subject-object (human-matter) relationship...

“The culture of popular science is one of unidirectional skepticism...
It is skeptical of any idea that spirituality corresponds to
anything outside ourselves, but surprisingly gullible about any reductionist explanation of it.” 
Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, The Spiritual Brain, 91.


Taken together, alternative theories seem to present a formidable case for the scientific establishment to reckon with. But the materialistic bias in western science runs deep. And just how exactly it will or even might be overturned remains anybody’s guess. Some feel that one of the more intriguing candidates for the proverbial backbreaking straw lies in the nature of the mind/body problem itself. As futurist and popular science author Peter Russell suggests in From Science to God, “I now believe this is not so much a hard problem as an impossible problem—impossible, that is, within the current scientific worldview. Our inability to account for consciousness is the trigger that will, in time, push Western science into what the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn called a “paradigm shift”. Is it possible that it will be science’s failure to solve the mind/body problem that will ultimately be materialism’s undoing? Could neuroscience’s bold attempt to penetrate the mysteries of the human psyche be that one step too far that brings the entire atheistic-materialistic science dogmatism crashing to the ground? [5]

Neuroscience might end up supporting humanity’s spiritual aspirations in a way no one expected. By exposing the inner mechanisms behind our human personalities and by finding its limitations, it may be inadvertently helping to clear the way for the discovery of that "spirituality" which the great masters have always said that lies beyond them...


  1. The Language of Science – Consciousness, Jakob Hohwy, Department of Philosophy, Monash University
  2. Can Brain Explain Mind?, Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn
  3. Ramachandran on Consciousness, Jonah Lehrer
  4. Neuroscience, Consciousness, and the Soul, Craig Hamilton
  5. Does Neuroscience Leave Room for God?, Dr. Angus J. L. Menuge, Concordia University Wisconsin ()
  6. Cognitive neuroscience and the "Mind-Body problem", Grega Repovs, University of Ljubljana, Department of psychology, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  7. Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, pp. 28-32.
  8. Quantum Consciousness, Piero Scaruffi
  9. Mind does really matter: evidence from neuroimaging studies of emotional self-regulation, psychotherapy, and placebo effect, Beauregard M., Prog Neurobiol. 2007 Mar;81(4):218-36. Epub 2007 Feb 9. Review, PMID: 17349730 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  10. Early Work in AI, by Eyal Reingold and Johnathan Nightingale
  11. Measurement in quantum mechanics [Wikipedia article]
  12. Consciousness causes collapse [Wikipedia article]
  14. Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (the Ingersoll Lecture, 1897), William James
  17. Michael Esfeld, (1999), Essay Review: Wigner’s View of Physical Reality, published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 30B, pp. 145–154, Elsevier Science Ltd.
  18. F. London and E. Bauer, "La théorie de l’observation en mécanique quantique" (1939), English translation in Quantum Theory and Measurement, edited by J.A. Wheeler and W.H. Zurek, Princeton University, Princeton, 1983, pp. 217–259.
  19. Sudarshan, E. C. G.; Misra, B. (1977). "The Zeno's paradox in quantum theory". Journal of Mathematical Physics. 18 (4): 756–763. DOI:10.1063/1.523304.

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