Why consciousness must be electric

Nested hierarchies have been discussed adequately, one should think. So here is an alternative matter.

I would propose that consciousness must be electrical in nature, due to two crucial facts:

1. The information that becomes conscious is some of the information being carried by the action-potentials of the nerve cells. It is not any other kind of information, such as quantum states of molecules, it is simply the information that nerve cells are known to carry via action-potentials.

2. Electric fields are the only physical phenomenon in the brain that have both the ability to extend in space significantly beyond nerve conduction itself and to be able to change and interact exceedingly swiftly, just as we experience conscious changes occurring “instantly.”

There are many other issues involved, of course, however, the fact remains that the physical phenomena underlying consciousness must be able to account for how consciousness appears to have the kind of extension and interactivity that creates consciousness, as electric fields would seem to be able to do. And that physical phenomenon must be tied to the information being carried as nerve impulses, as the electric fields of the nervous system ineluctibly are.

There does not seem to be a realistic option of a different sort of phenomenon that can unify that information encoded in the nerves into a conscious whole, and to do so exceedingly swiftly and surely. Certainly quantum physics offers nothing beyond electric fields interacting that could magically account for consciousness, no matter how much hocus-pocus people try to coax out of quantum phenomena. In the end it can’t be strange loops or the “illusion of consciousness” either, as one has to explain the difference between the consciousness and the unconscious (I would propose that the amount of, and type of, interaction of electric fields is what is crucial).

A great many issues could be discussed, however it seems to me that beginning with the basics is appropriate. There really is only one good candidate for consciousness in the physics of the brain at all, which is the electric fields that are unquestionably a necessary part of nerve conduction in the first place. If consciousness simply is what it is to be like a highly structured and unified (always becoming unified) electric field from the inside, so to speak, then it is the one phenomenon that we know not just abstractly, but as reality itself.

336 thoughts on “Why consciousness must be electric

  1. Well, this is a big subject! 🙂
    Are you making a distinction between the electrochemical nature of nerve impulses and pure (?) electricity?

  2. I would propose that consciousness must be electrical in nature, due to two crucial facts

    I’m having trouble working out what that even means. To me, it looks like tossed word salad.

    I don’t doubt the use of electricity as an implementation detail. But saying that consciousness is “electrical in nature”? I don’t know what you mean by “consciousness” but it’s probably not what I mean.

    Can you at least tell us what you mean?

  3. I don’t have any objections to the idea that consciousness is in some sense an electrical field generated by living brains causally wired up to living bodies and to environments. It has the faint whiff of plausibility and it could be true. But I have no idea what the claim really means or how we could ever find out if its true.

    The reason why I work on cognition and intentionality and not on consciousness is because cognition and intentionality are solvable. I think that figuring out how to understand the relation between cognition, intentionality, and neural activity is difficult but it’s not impossible.

    But I have no idea what to say about consciousness. And I don’t think anyone else really does, either.

  4. “The information that becomes conscious is some of the information being carried by the action-potentials of the nerve cells.

    Information becoming conscious??? Great idea but I’m afraid you are going to have a very hard time convincing anyone how that can happen…

    We have had this discussion before more than once;

    If consciousness is electrical, as you claim, why all the electrical brain functions are normal, including in nerves cells, under general anesthetic when patients are totally unconscious? If consciousness were electric, at least some electrical brain functions should be disabled due to patients being unconscious…

    “It is not any other kind of information, such as quantum states of molecules, it is simply the information that nerve cells are known to carry via action-potentials.

    If it is NOT quantum information (qubit), then what information are you talking about?

  5. Glen is arguing that electrical fields are the seat of consciousness. I’ll get back to that hypothesis in later comments, but for now I simply want to address the idea that consciousness is due to electrical or electrochemical phenomena, without limiting that to fields specifically.

    There are (at least) two ways of interpreting the thesis that consciousness must be electrical (or electrochemical) in nature.

    One is that consciousness is necessarily electrochemical, and that no other substrate could support a process that could justifiably be labeled as “consciousness”.

    Another is simply to say that consciousness as we encounter it in nature happens to be based on an electrochemical substrate, without claiming that this is the only possible substrate.

    I go with the latter. Can anyone think of reasons why consciousness should necessarily be electrical or electrochemical in nature?

  6. Alan Fox:
    Well, this is a big subject!
    Are you making a distinction between the electrochemical nature of nerve impulses and pure (?) electricity?

    Not especially. Basically you’re having voltage drive phenomena in either case. Of course I’m not saying that they’re at all the same thing, but I’m not claiming that there’s some special aspect to the electrochemical nature of nerve impulses in some sort of vitalist sense, or some such thing.

    Glen Davidson

  7. Neil Rickert: I’m having trouble working out what that even means.To me, it looks like tossed word salad.

    Why, you don’t know what “electrical” means, or “consciousness,” or both?

    I don’t doubt the use of electricity as an implementation detail.But saying that consciousness is “electrical in nature”?

    Well, there are relatively few “fundamental forces” (people argue about “force” being wrong, too, but it’ll do here), the electromagnetic force being one of them. There are magnetic phenomena in the brain, but they are generally quite weak, so I don’t think they’re likely very important, while electric fields typically drive voltage-gated channels to open and close, while also permeating the brain. Conscious data are embodied in electrochemical phenomena, and it seems more than a little likely the fields that are the more extensive aspect of nerve conduction are responsible for consciousness, both because they’re already tied to information and because they end up interacting with each other (or EEGs wouldn’t work).

    I don’t know what you mean by “consciousness” but it’s probably not what I mean.

    Probably not, but I wouldn’t know why not. I tend to think of perceptual consciousness, in particular, especially since so much consciousness is something like visual consciousness, or hearing.

    Can you at least tell us what you mean?

    I don’t know, Neil, as usual you seem to have problems with simple words that most people understand in the usual senses.

    Glen Davidson

  8. Kantian Naturalist:
    I don’t have any objections to the idea that consciousness is in some sense an electrical field generated by living brains causally wired up to living bodies and to environments. It has the faint whiff of plausibility and it could be true. But I have no idea what the claim really means or how we could ever find out if its true.

    It isn’t easy, of course. On the other hand, there should be a way to tell, mainly in comparing what people consciously experience and what is seen in conscious and in unconscious regions of the brain. If the data in the brain allow relatively coherent interaction of the attendant electric fields (that is, myelination, or hopeless confusion, don’t prevent coherent interaction–the confusion aspect probably nixes the top layer of the cortex as conscious, at least coherent electric consciousness) where consciousness is involved, and not really the same sort of interaction where one is largely unconscious–and this turns out to be the norm, at least–then you’ve got some pretty good evidence that consciousness is due to relatively coherent (but I think shifting and changing somewhat, at least–some dynamics seems imperative) interactions of electric fields. Correlation often becomes causation when nothing else really does correlate meaningfully.

    The reason why I work on cognition and intentionality and not on consciousness is because cognition and intentionality are solvable. I think that figuring out how to understand the relation between cognition, intentionality, and neural activity is difficult but it’s not impossible.

    I don’t know if intentionality is tractable, although clearly cognition has already been shown to have brain bases in many cases. I really don’t see why consciousness should be written off as impossible, though.

    But I have no idea what to say about consciousness. And I don’t think anyone else really does, either.

    Kind of makes it easy, doesn’t it? Just say no one knows.

    Glen Davidson

  9. J-Mac:
    “The information that becomes conscious is some of the information being carried by the action-potentials of the nerve cells.

    Information becoming conscious??? Great idea but I’m afraid you are going to have a very hard time convincing anyone how that can happen…

    Clearly it happens. Your eyes take in information that is not conscious, it probably does not become conscious until it reaches the brain proper, but not, I think, likely in the primary visual cortex yet.

    We have had this discussion before more than once;

    If consciousness is electrical, as you claim,why all the electrical brain functions are normal, including in nerves cells, under general anesthetic when patients are totally unconscious? If consciousness were electric, at least some electrical brain functions should be disabled due to patients being unconscious…

    We’ve had this before, and I linked to a source that pointed out that electrical activity changes fairly substantially under general anaesthetic. Here’s a teaching video about some of the changes:

    EEG Waveforms and the Depth of Anesthesia

    You can deny it all that you want, it’s still a fact that general anaesthesia substantially changes electrical activity in the brain. And that’s just from brain waves, which are a rather crude measure of what’s going on.

    Glen Davidson

  10. keiths: One is that consciousness is necessarily electrochemical, and that no other substrate could support a process that could justifiably be labeled as “consciousness”.

    Another is simply to say that consciousness as we encounter it in nature happens to be based on an electrochemical substrate, without claiming that this is the only possible substrate.

    I go with the latter. Can anyone think of reasons why consciousness should necessarily be electrical or electrochemical in nature?

    Oh I think I agree with you on that, and was pretty much pointing to the brain itself as the reason why consciousness has to be electric. Could consciousness be magnetic? It might be a bit more difficult, especially with the way that dipole fields so quickly tail off, but it seems like it could happen. To be sure, I’m not impressed with the possibilities of the nuclear forces, the one being rather weak, the strong nuclear force losing force so quickly with distance. Gravity has weakness problems, but maybe at the right scale it could support consciousness.

    Glen Davidson

  11. GlenDavidson: Not especially.Basically you’re having voltage drive phenomena in either case.Of course I’m not saying that they’re at all the same thing, but I’m not claiming that there’s some special aspect to the electrochemical nature of nerve impulses in some sort of vitalist sense, or some such thing.

    Glen Davidson

    OK. Then the most baffling thing for me regarding human brains and functions (apart from the almost complete separation between the hemispheres) is long-term memory. How would you propose that is stored, accessed and updated electrically? How do neurons evoke that summer afternoon, long ago, the picnic beside the stream… or do we constantly re-remember our memories?

    I have to say here that whilst I hope it is not an intractable problem, getting a handle on how our brains work is doomed to failure by either a top-down or bottom-up approach. A combination of both, possibly?

  12. Alan Fox: OK. Then the most baffling thing for me regarding human brains and functions (apart from the almost complete separation between the hemispheres) long-term memory. How would you propose that is stored, accessed and updated electrically?

    I assume it’s what people have said for some time now, that memory involves strengthened synaptic connections, and, perhaps more importantly, specific synaptic potentiation. In this case, chemistry becomes fairly important, and the neuron will fire specifically in order to at least partially recreate the nerve firings to reproduce an experience, a memory.

    How do neurons evoke that summer afternoon, long ago, the picnic beside the stream… or do we constantly re-remember our memories?

    Synapses under the right stimulation recreate much of the same nerve firings as those that created the synaptic potentiation. It’s the gist of what many say, and I don’t claim to be any kind of expert about it (for one thing, I don’t think that memory is particularly a conscious issue, more of an electrochemical one that ends up recreating nerve firings, conscious ones in many cases.

    I have to say here that whilst I hope it is not an intractable problem, getting a handle on how our brains work is doomed to failure by either a top-down or bottom-up approach. A combination of both, possibly?

    I don’t know, I guess whatever works at a specific time.

    Glen Davidson

  13. Alan Fox:
    And I think “consciousness” is best either defined if we’re going to discuss it, or perhaps even better, avoided (or as Michael Graziano sidesteps it).

    To me it seems more of a “I know it when I experience it” sort of phenomenon. Sure, definitions can be made, probably the best actually harking back to the etymology, the “knowing together” wherein data are known in relation to each other in a kind of unified knowledge (I don’t see consciousness as global or any such thing, though). But other definitions tend to be more circular, like awareness, which is a subset of consciousness itself. Or consciousness as knowing qualitative knowledge, or just plain qualia. Fine, but isn’t that the point, what is that in the first place?

    I do like the “knowing together” aspect of consciousness as an important basic recognition, but I tend to think that otherwise consciousness should be seen as more open-ended, because it’s not a well-understood phenomenon.

    Glen Davidson

  14. Yet another one who does not know how to not litter the main page.

    As to the subject matter, let’s start with definitions. Define “information” as distinguished from nerve cells and “consciousness”.

  15. Erik: Yet another one who does not know how to not litter the main page.

    I know I am no where near as smart as some people here at TSZ, but I do know how to click on the little button labelled ‘more‘ and I know how to create links to posts by others when quoting them that actually work when you click on them.

  16. If you are going to attempt to answer the question of consciousness then you need to start from a sure foundation without any preconceived ideas. You begin by assuming that consciousness is a product of matter. Here you are making an unjustified assumption. The only place to start your enquiry is from the very beginning which is not from a position of materialism but from thinking. It is thinking that gives you the concept of consciousness so it is ‘thinking’ that must be your starting point.

    Rudolf Steiner

    Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism thus begins with the thought of matter or material processes. But, in doing so, it is already confronted by two different sets of facts: the material world, and the thoughts about it. The materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he attributes mechanical and organic effects to matter, so he credits matter in certain circumstances with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is merely shifting the problem from one place to another. He ascribes the power of thinking to matter instead of to himself. And thus he is back again at his starting point. How does matter come to think about its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content just to exist? The materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own I, and has arrived at an image of something quite vague and indefinite. Here the old riddle meets him again. The materialistic conception cannot solve the problem; it can only shift it from one place to another.

  17. GlenDavidson: Clearly it happens. Your eyes take in information that is not conscious, it probably does not become conscious until it reaches the brain proper, but not, I think, likely in the primary visual cortex yet.

    Glen,

    I don’t think what you describe here is what you think it is…
    You should try to analyze the hard problem of conscientiousness:

    Wiki: “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness

    Regarding the electrical brain functions registered by EEG which we’ve discussed in the past:

    “J-Mac
    December 20, 2017 at 3:08 am

    GlenDavidson: No they don’t.

    To be sure, they’re thinking that the EEGs probably aren’t reflecting the more crucial aspects, but the EEGs still are affected.

    Glen Davidson

    J-Mac:This is the the introduction to the article you linked:

    “A large-scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has sparked a flurry of controversy among anesthesiologists. According to the findings, a commonly used device designed to prevent anesthesia awareness–the rare event when a patient is actually conscious during surgery–was largely ineffective.”

    Anesthesia awareness-the rare event …

    As the article goes on, usually in anesthesia awareness rare events, not enough anesthetic drugs where applied or they where wearing off faster than in most patients…
    Different drugs and drug amounts work differently on different patients…”

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/craniopagus-twins-revisited-a-response-to-professor-egnor/#comments

  18. CharlieM,

    Sorry Charlie, but that looks a lot like a rhetorical word salad. If you got something from that, it would be better if you expressed the idea in intelligible terms, instead of just quoting and expecting readers to guess what that was all about.

  19. Glen,

    One thing you haven’t addressed, at least so far: Electric fields are ubiquitous, yet you don’t appear to be a panpsychist. If so, then you must believe that the presence of an electric field by itself is an insufficient condition for the production of consciousness.

    What additional conditions do you think are necessary, and why?

    Keep in mind that many processes that we don’t habitually consider to be electrical, like, say, the meshing of automatic transmission gears*, actually are electrical phenomena at their core. The ability of one gear to drive another is due to the interaction of the electron clouds in the atoms of both. I don’t think automatic transmissions are conscious, and I doubt that you do either, so what is it about the operation of a brain that generates consciousness if the operation of an automatic transmission does not, in your opinion?

    A similar question applies to the brain itself. Consciousness is associated with some parts of the brain, but not with others. What’s the difference? Neurons are firing all over the brain. Why do some generate consciousness when others don’t?

    *I have automatic transmissions on my mind because I am finding myself forced, for the first time in my life, to purchase a vehicle with an automatic transmission. I need a half-ton truck to tow a travel trailer, and none of the current models offer a manual transmission.

    The Manual Transmission is Dead, and it’s Never Coming Back … Ever

    Sigh.

  20. keiths:
    Glen,

    One thing you haven’t addressed, at least so far:Electric fields are ubiquitous, yet you don’t appear to be a panpsychist.If so, then you must believe that the presence of an electric field by itself is an insufficient condition for the production of consciousness.

    I did cover a bit of it at December 31, 4:54 pm. I think it’s probably a matter of signal to noise in most cases, with a lot of unconscious areas and times having no real signal that rises above a lot of “noisy” electric field interactions

    I don’t think any meaningful panpsychism exists, but it may be that the dullest, isolated “internal interactions” may exist in electric fields not connected with brains. It’s just possible that there is meaningless “attraction” between oppositely charged particles beyond the abstract physics understanding of attraction, but at best there’s no context or continuity to any kind of non-brain “disturbance of the force” interactions that may internally register. It seems very unlikely that non-brain consciousness of any recognizable form would exist when much of brains are not conscious in any case, and even conscious regions of brains can be unconscious at times.

    What additional conditions do you think are necessary, and why?

    There needs to be enough signal altogether in the first place. Blindsight seems not to reach that threshold, so that although some nerve signals make it through to consciousness of the “blindseen” objects, there isn’t enough signal before that for the visual experience itself to create visual consciousness. Likewise, portions of the brain apparently go unconscious during sleep, probably again not because there are no nerve signals, but not enough to maintain consciousness. Again, though, even when there are enough nerve signals, you need a certain amount of signal rising above the noise–and myelinated nerves seem unlikely to result in meaningful electric field interactivity, unless maybe the nodes of Ranvier were to match up regularly (I don’t believe that they do, except randomly). And indeed, it does seem that “gray matter” is what typically is conscious in the brain, not the transmission of information that myelinated fibers seem more suited for doing.

    Keep in mind that many processes that we don’t habitually consider to be electrical, like, say, the meshing of automatic transmission gears*, actually are electrical phenomena at their core.The ability of one gear to drive another is due to the interaction of the electron clouds in the atoms of both.

    Well, yes, but mostly I don’t think there’s much of an electric signal arising overall, it’s mostly just negative electrons cancelling out positive protons. But more importantly, I think, you only have simple, mostly isolated electric interactions going on in such situations. I don’t think any kind of meaningful electric signal arises until it’s in a brain, with a host of signals being created any time a strong perceptual signal affects the brain. Electric signals mean something to complex information-rich structures like brains, while meaningless attraction-repulsion interactions even in electric phenomena (like lightning) produce no meaningful interactions at all.

    I don’t think automatic transmissions are conscious, and I doubt that you do either, so what is it about the operation of a brain that generates consciousness if the operation of an automatic transmission does not, in your opinion?

    Signal over noise, and the kind of context that makes a signal produce complex results that depend on complex and meaningful brain structures.

    A similar question applies to the brain itself.Consciousness is associated with some parts of the brain, but not with others.What’s the difference?Neurons are firing all over the brain.Why do some generate consciousness when others don’t?

    There is one possibility that I haven’t mentioned, which is that it could be that some “unconscious areas” are indeed conscious, just not connected with our “waking consciousness.” On the whole, though, I wouldn’t want to make much of that, especially since conscious regions of the brain can “go down” and lose consciousness, which I don’t think means just disconnecting from “waking consciousness.” The important thing, I think, is that conscious areas, like perceptual areas, really have layouts that create ordered, interacting signals within a perceptual field, hence we have the retinotopical map in the visual realm, and the tonotopic map in hearing (I suspect that consciousness is likely less at the top of the cortex with its jumble of nerves (not that they’re random or anything like that, but not ordered so that contextual information are kept together in “grids”), rather, consciousness arises (IMO) lower down where nerves are typically parallel to one another, and would interact via electric fields in a more coordinated fashion–which presumably has the benefit of coordinating the timing of action-potentials, beyond simply producing consciousness, but perhaps explaining why consciousness exists–interacting fields would tend to coordinate signals, and these would happen to be consciousness-causing interactions).; These “maps” exist in order to coordinate incoming information, while the unconscious brain I think works more like a typical computer chip, just responding to a bunch of inputs in order to create outputs that “work.”

    *I have automatic transmissions on my mind because I am finding myself forced, for the first time in my life, to purchase a vehicle with an automatic transmission.I need a half-ton truck to tow a travel trailer, and none of the current models offer a manual transmission.

    The Manual Transmission is Dead, and it’s Never Coming Back … Ever

    Sigh.

    Oh well, manual transmissions never were conscious, in my view, so at least their death isn’t as horrible as it could be.

    Glen Davidson

  21. GlenDavidson: You can deny it all that you want, it’s still a fact that general anaesthesia substantially changes electrical activity in the brain.

    How can medicine change electricity? Is the medicine anti-electric?

  22. Neil Rickert:
    J-Mac,

    One hour of Hameroff?Thanks, but no.

    It’s not for close-minded people… who you obviously have proven to be more than once not only on the theme of consciousness…

    You have your own idea about consciousness which you don’t want to reveal …
    I hope you have at least one testable prediction about it, unlike the author of this OP 😉

  23. J-Mac,

    I could not watch very far. The guy’s ideas sound like those of a crackpot.

    P.S. Why the hell are they dressed as if they’re about to perform surgery?

  24. Entropy:
    J-Mac,

    I could not watch very far. The guy’s ideas sound like those of a crackpot.

    Is that supposed to be some kind of reasoned argument?

    Now that it has arrived for all, happy New Year to everyone 🙂

  25. CharlieM: Is that supposed to be some kind of reasoned argument?

    It doesn’t seem to need an argument as a response. It looks a lot like mere speculation at best.

    Happy new year to you too Charlie.

    P.S. I could not stand the dressing either. Looks as if trying too hard to impress, but got the opposite result.

  26. J-Mac: It’s not for close-minded people… who you obviously have proven to be more than once not only on the theme of consciousness…

    I’ve actually been following Hameroff’s ideas (and Penrose’s) for around 20 years. I am underwhelmed.

    You have your own idea about consciousness which you don’t want to reveal …

    I actually discussed some of them recently. But you didn’t notice.

  27. If Stuart Hameroff is too much for some does anyone have any arguments against Owen Barfield’s discussion on the evolution of consciousness in his book Saving the Appearances a set of videos can be found which provides the basics of the book can be found here

    He argues that primitive human consciousness is not just a simplified version of modern Western consciousness but it is totally different type of consciousness which, because it came more from within nature (Barfield used the term ‘original participation’), the ancients had in certain respects a greater knowledge than us.

    The late David Lavery had this to say:

    The modern epistemological outlook, Barfield contends, “is really a very strange marriage of ideas indeed . . . and has led to all sorts of matrimonial jars, all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of uneasy metaphysical arguments about what (if anything) is actually there outside of us and what is not really there, but is only a kind of appearance, or deception. All sorts of lyrical backchat about Juniper trees when there is no one about in the Quad” Barfield’s thought strives to avoid these absurdities.

    Barfield looks at the difference between what modern physics says about ‘reality’ and the common sense, everyday view of ‘reality’.

    Whatever may be thought about the “unrepresented” background of our perceptions, the familiar world which we see and know around us-the blue sky with white clouds in it, the noise of a waterfall or a motor bus, the shapes of flowers and their scent, the gesture and utterance of animals and the faces of our friends-the world too, which (apart from the special inquiry of physics) experts of all kinds methodically investigate-is a system of collective representations. The time comes when we must either accept this as the truth about the world or reject the theories of physics as an elaborate delusion. We cannot have it both ways.

  28. It seems the immaterial soul is rejected and so a option being rejected nullifys the subject as a scientific one. So just musing aloud.
    The soul concept was first, common, famous, and rejected out of hand wiothout intellectual credibility in the last few centuries.
    They cheated and then scratch their heads about the weirdness of being.
    I( don’t think electricity is the smoking gun.
    I think its obviously a soul and then a memory machine connecting soul and body.
    Its not that complicated though complex in its elements.

  29. Neil Rickert: I actually discussed some of them recently. But you didn’t notice.
    Where? I’m sorry if I missed that…. I barely visit TSZ for obvious reasons…
    I’d be interested in fresh ideas on consciousness ….

  30. Neil Rickert: I’ve actually been following Hameroff’s ideas (and Penrose’s) for around 20 years.I am underwhelmed.

    I actually discussed some of them recently.But you didn’t notice.

    Their theory is the only one that has some merit… I disagree with them on many issues but that doesn’t make their theory totally wrong…
    If someone believes in a soul or afterlife, quantum soul is a possibility….

  31. Entropy: P.S. Why the hell are they dressed as if they’re about to perform surgery?

    If you watched carefully enough you’d know that Hameroff was interviewed before performing a procedure… He is an anaesthesiologist… He became one because of his passion for consciousness…
    He’d learned in medical school that anaesthetic gases disable consciousness in microtubules of neurons….

  32. J-Mac: If you watched carefully enough you’d know that Hameroff was interviewed before performing a procedure…

    The interview, as presented, lasted more than one hour. I doubt that his going to perform a procedure is the reason for the dressing. I think the dressing was meant to impress. It didn’t.

    J-Mac: He is an anaesthesiologist… He became one because of his passion for consciousness…

    I doubt it. Anesthesiology is about mixtures of gases, and injectables, that get people unconscious, which is not the same as understanding consciousness (let alone quantum mechanics). If he wanted to understand consciousness, he would have gone for neurophysiology.

  33. Entropy: Anesthesiology is about mixtures of gases, and injectables, that get people unconscious

    I wonder if Glenn means its a mixture of gasses and injectables that change electricity.

  34. Entropy: The interview, as presented, lasted more than one hour. I doubt that his going to perform a procedure is the reason for the dressing. I think the dressing was meant to impress. It didn’t.

    I doubt it. Anesthesiology is about mixtures of gases, and injectables, that get people unconscious, which is not the same as understanding consciousness (let alone quantum mechanics). If he wanted to understand consciousness, he would have gone for neurophysiology.

    They say it in the interview that he is about to put some to sleep, you moron!

    Welcome to ignore stupidissimo!

  35. It’s so cute when guys like J-Mac, Sal, and Mung threaten to put people on ignore, as if that would actually be a punishment.

  36. And phoodoo makes J-Mac look like a genius by comparison:

    Glen:

    You can deny it all that you want, it’s still a fact that general anaesthesia substantially changes electrical activity in the brain.

    phoodoo:

    How can medicine change electricity? Is the medicine anti-electric?

    And:

    I wonder if Glenn means its a mixture of gasses and injectables that change electricity.

  37. Entropy, responding to CharlieM’s Steiner quote:

    Sorry Charlie, but that looks a lot like a rhetorical word salad. If you got something from that, it would be better if you expressed the idea in intelligible terms, instead of just quoting and expecting readers to guess what that was all about.

    That quote is actually intelligible, if you can suppress the “eyes glazing over” response. The ideas are poor, but the passage is at least intelligible.

    Let’s take a closer look. Steiner:

    Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism thus begins with the thought of matter or material processes. But, in doing so, it is already confronted by two different sets of facts: the material world, and the thoughts about it. The materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the animal organs.

    So far, so good. He’s just saying that physicalists regard thought as a physical process taking place in the brain. Nothing objectionable there.

    Just as he attributes mechanical and organic effects to matter, so he credits matter in certain circumstances with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is merely shifting the problem from one place to another. He ascribes the power of thinking to matter instead of to himself.

    Here Steiner is just assuming his conclusion: that physicalism is false, and that the self is non-physical.

    Next is where things become truly Steineresque:

    And thus he is back again at his starting point. How does matter come to think about its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content just to exist?

    As if matter had to decide that it wanted to be conscious, or to take up space, or to reflect light, and so on. Steiner has really gone off the rails here, personifying matter. It reminds me of his tomato rant.

    The materialist has turned his attention away from the definite subject, his own I, and has arrived at an image of something quite vague and indefinite.

    As if the soul were something definite and concrete, and matter just an amorphous and wispy figment of someone’s imagination. Um, Rudolf, it’s the other way around.

    Here the old riddle meets him again. The materialistic conception cannot solve the problem; it can only shift it from one place to another.

    Here Steiner is assuming his conclusion again: “The materialistic conception cannot solve the problem,” he states categorically. But of course he doesn’t know that. He just wants to believe it.

    He’s also applying a double standard. It’s true that physicalists haven’t solved the problem of consciousness, but neither have dualists. Physicalists can’t explain how matter achieves consciousness, but neither can dualists explain how purported souls or spirits achieve consciousness either. They just assume it.

    And of course the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of physicalism and against dualism, even in the absence of a satisfactory theory of consciousness.

    Poor thinking on Steiner’s part, but at least it’s intelligible.

  38. keiths,

    Powerful rhetoric keiths.

    Glenn calls it electrical. Some may call it moisture. Others perhaps call consciousness protein. One theory is that consciousness is oxygen based. Another is that consciousness is fiber. We know of no consciousness that exists without some kind of fiber.

    I personally support the believe that consciousness is sticky. You can not have consciousness without some element that is somewhat sticky. If you remove stickiness completely, I believe consciousness shifts to a new stickiness. It never disappears, but it avoids areas of low viscosity and low friction. You almost never find consciousness on a slick sheet of smooth ice.

  39. Don’t sweat it, phoodoo.

    You are baffled by the fact that general anesthetics can influence the electrical activity of the brain.

    That makes sense. Some people are smart and well-educated. Others are dumb as rocks.

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