Materialism/physicalism   vs.
mind-body dualism 

Within this website I explore whether there is a spiritual realm, a supernatural realm, containing God, mind, souls, consciousness with its contents (ideas, emotions, love, reason, etc) — this, from a purely philosophical and unreligious point of view.
In this article, I first assume there is a spiritual realm so as to explore the implications; then I present my conclusions elsewhere.

The subjective experience of consciousness is (according to my hypothesis) non-material/non-physical (mind-body dualism). This, because there is no natural law called "consciousness" and no quantum field called "consciousness".

Materialists/physicalists explain the subjective experience of consciousness as from the brain via: (1) illusion, (2) emergent property, (3) process or functioning. These seem like mere labels or categories, not explanations. Therefore, (according to my hypothesis) consciousness with its contents resides in the spiritual realm.

This assumes the spiritual realm is the realm of life, spirit, ideas — every non-physical aspect of reality. There is no need to explain it further or prove anything about the spiritual realm using the scientific method.

But why not bring all this into the physical universe as a form of physical mentality or physical spirituality? The universe has incorporeal aspects such as energy, entropy, information; and organisms are animated as if possessing a life spirit.

Science and neuropsychology demonstrate the tight correlation between brain function and conscious experience. I assume that in the future they will find the specific web of neurons (neural network) corresponding to and triggering the color red (for example) — but I doubt they will ever discover why it subjectively seems red.

Another view, nondualism (which is not idealism), claims that consciousness is primitive (as opposed to matter being primitive, the view of materialism/physicalism). But this view flounders when trying to explain matter (analogous to how materialism flounders when trying to explain consciousness and mind.) In my view, (according to my hypothesis) both domains exist, the physical realm and the spiritual realm, and they meet at the interface via quantum mechanics.

Regarding experiments showing that the brain triggers first; then consciousness? My view: unconscious mind activity occurs apart from consciousness; but the unconscious mind also resides in the spiritual realm and it triggers brain activity. Consider the example of "muscle memory" used by virtuoso musicians (for example): the conscious mind guides the process at a high level, only becoming conscious of the details as they occur. In truly free will conditions, consciousness occurs first before corresponding brain function (neuroscientists have not yet tested for this scenario).

There is more to reality than the physical material world. The subjective experience of consciousness demonstrates this.

If there is no spiritual realm containing mathematics, then perhaps the universe is mathematical in some way? And maybe consciousness is similar. The universe is consciousness in some way.

Questions to consider:

  1. Unconscious vs. non-conscious
  2. The spiritual realm contains consciousness with its contents
  3. Consciousness with no brain?
  4. Evolution of consciousness

I suspect that there are different aspects of experienced consciousness based on the complexity of the interactions. Perhaps flowing electric charges are what triggers the experience of consciousness. This is a good explanation for why the consciousness of the human brain is so rich, because the neural network of the brain and the flow of electrons through the neurons is more complex by far than any other flow of electrons anywhere in the universe. Other less sophisticated flows of electrons result in a duller and dimmer experience of consciousness.

Unconscious (non-conscious) mind functions, but sometimes consciousness attaches itself to it.

Can only brains be conscious? What about ganglia of nerves? What about molecules moving about inside a cell? Perhaps there is a brain kind of consciousness, a nerve ganglia kind of conscious (in creatures having no brain), and a moving molecule kind of consciousness? If the brain generates consciousness from the network of neurons, perhaps it is merely the tight choreographed flow of electrons, of electric charges, that triggers the experience of consciousness. But all matter has electric charge and is moving. So perhaps all matter generates consciousness. Or does consciousness only pop into existence when the flow of electrons through the neural network of the brain gets sufficiently complex?

The soul reads brain activity (brain state) via electrons flowing within the neural network. The soul communicates to the brain via the "random" collapse of the wave function.

An information view of consciousness

Information is stored in configurations of matter.

When two particles become entangled (quantum mechanics), the information about their state is stored within the reality of the particles. For example, the spin of two entangled electrons is encoded in the law of conservation of spin; when the wave function of one particle collapses with a spin of counterclockwise, in order to conserve spin, the other particle must instantly have a spin of clockwise.

Perhaps consciousness is the instantaneous transfer of information of entangled particles. In this case, the information about the state of the one electron (its spin) does not travel at the speed of light via electromagnetic radiation, rather, it "transcends" physical reality via consciousness (in the realm of consciousness, the spiritual realm?) instantaneously.

Need to explain unconscious activity of the mind.

Mind-body dualism vs. materialist/physicalist

Some various views of consciousness

Materialist/physicalist views:

  1. In a certain structure of microtubules in certain kinds of neurons of the brain, when the quantum mechanics wave function collapses, then "bing" — consciousness appears. (Stuart Hammeroff and Roger Penrose.)

    An interesting idea having the advantage of explaining how it is that anesthetics interrupt consciousness.

  2. The complexity of the functioning neural network results in the illusion of consciousness which we are duped into believing is real. Emergent property.

    I doubt we are merely fooled into experiencing consciousness. Consciousness must exist as a fundamental property of the cosmos, just as are energy, entropy, information, and time.

  3. Electric flow through the neural network of the brain triggers whatever it is in the cosmos that is consciousness.

    I think something like this is the best candidate for explaining consciousness.

Dualist (mind-body dualism — my view):

  1. Consciousness is a property of the spiritual realm, like a laser light, and is attracted to these interesting functions of the brain; and this laser light of consciousness "shines" on them. The content of the neural networks provide the content of the conscious experience. The laser light of consciousness is content neutral (this is the "pure" consciousness of eastern religion/philosophy).

3-D neural networks

Consciousness results from quantum mechanics interactions of flowing (moving) electrons in the physical realm; from changing information.

In humans, consciousness occurs in the brain. Imagine the neuron cells as 3-D (which they are), but ignore all except the electron flow. Imagine you are sculpting the brain's electron flow with clear clay, applying layer upon layer of axons and dendrites. (Drip little lines like with wet sand at the beach when making sand castles.)

Electrostatic forces flow through these "wires" in a 3-D shape, like rapids of a river, or turbulence around an airplane. The quantum mechanical interactions moving over that shape; this triggers consciousness in the spiritual realm.

If you re-live a memory, the neural network containing that memory is activated and the electrostatic forces flow through that shape in the proper location of the neural network and the consciousness of the spiritual ream is activated in the same way as the last time you remember this memory. The memory seems the same as the previous time you remembered it.

There is absolutely no necessity of postulating a spiritual realm for all this to work.

Sources of consciousness

Both right?

Consciousness from:

  1. Neural network (general experience of being conscious, perhaps general feelings of emotion, sense of being a unified person).
  2. Quantum mechanics imprinting of molecular messages in certain microtubules of certain neurons containing huge amounts of information. (Details of memories, specific mental map of 3-D surroundings). [This idea from Stuart Hammeroff and Roger Penrose.]

Conscious while asleep?

Seems when we fall asleep, we are no longer conscious. But when we are placed under anesthesia, we are unconscious in a much more extreme way; there is no continuity when we again wake up.

Our mind works even when we are not conscious. For example, we are working on a problem, but give up. Days later the answer comes to us. Is there a sense in which that part of our mind solving the problem was conscious?

Certainly we are not conscious of the workings of our internal organs. But is our soul residing in the spiritual realm conscious of such things?

And what about other creatures such as ants? Are they conscious more than we might imagine via their souls residing in the spiritual realm?

I'm beginning to suspect our awareness of our own consciousness is incomplete; that our soul residing in the spiritual realm is more conscious than we are. This implies two foci of awareness; one limited to our brain, and the other in our soul residing in the spiritual realm. After death, the soul "wakes up".

Perhaps it works in an analogous manner as the Trinity; one essence, multiple conscious persons?

Consciousness and slugs

A large slug I've been watching. I can see him/her but he/she can't see me unless I gently poke him/her or put something in his/her path, then he/she has to deal with it. He/she can sense me somewhat, but not in my fullness.

A scientist might use this as evidence that there are still things about the physical world (the universe) we don't know yet. But the slug will never know anything else about me no matter how long we wait.

The domain of science includes only what can be observed and tested. It knows nothing outside of this. If there is something outside of the domain of science (outside of the physical realm, in other words, the spiritual realm) science will never know of it. Like a slug.

We have discovered the full extent of the contents of the domain of science. Calling consciousness an emergent property of the neural network of the brain doesn't suddenly magically make consciousness into something physical. It's not a force; it's not a kind of matter or energy or space or time. It's not physical because it is spiritual, within the spiritual realm.

As a non-theist rejecting the spiritual realm, the supernatural realm, I must assume that consciousness is an aspect of physicality, just as are energy, entropy, information, and time. The laws governing consciousness have not yet been discovered, and may never be.

Every good thing ends

I was cuddling with my dog, then for some good reason, abruptly ended it, much to my dog's dismay. So I told my dog, "every good thing ends".

But there will be more good things in the future, so it's not over.

But maybe there is one good thing which never ends. The conscious experience of being a self.

We are always consciously aware of something. And it is our self, our personhood, which experiences this, that never changes. The content of the experience changes.

Except that: the brain generates consciousness somehow, so, when the brain ceases functioning, consciousness ends.

Consciousness = personhood

A characteristic of consciousness is that you feel you are a living entity, a person. I suppose that's what consciousness is; the sense that you are a living entity, a creature.

This is why God is personal, as claimed by monotheism (rejecting all the Christian and religious claims which are false). As a conscious agent, God is of necessity a self-aware person (I don't mean a human person).

Even slugs and snails, which are probably conscious, are aware of their identity as a creature. They are not aware that they are conscious because they don't have the capability of self-reflection that humans have.

Sadly, conscious creatures can suffer and feel pain.

Consciousness is essential

Thinking about materialist atheists who always mock me for thinking that consciousness is anything more than: (1) an illusion created by the brain, or (2) an emergent property of matter, or (3) the process of electrons flowing within the neural network. But if you start with the universe as a whole, it seems that consciousness is something more. Here's why:

First, assume an unusual view of mind-body dualism, in which the dualism is merely: that consciousness is a new property of the universe, not the same as matter.

Then, even though there is only one planet within the entire universe having conscious creatures (as far as we know); even still, the very fact of even the very existence of consciousness seems to demand that consciousness be separate from the universe, even essential to the existence of the universe, perhaps even creating the universe somehow.

Something part of something can't be separate from it. So the fact of the existence of consciousness demonstrates that consciousness is apart from the universe. (Does this also apply to other things? Does the fact of the existence of an electron demonstrate that electrons are apart from the universe?)

Electrons are an aspect of the universe. Therefore, consciousness is an aspect of the universe. Perhaps this is what a property is.

Note: no one has detected consciousness as a property of the universe, as they have with energy, entropy, information, and time. So they want to deny its existence by calling it an "emergent property".

This is my argument for why there must be a spiritual realm (apart from the physical realm) having consciousness and the contents of consciousness and mind.

The conscious soul

The conscious soul observes the functioning of the brain and connects to it via links. The brain doesn't realize the conscious soul exists.

Also, to account for the working of the mind when not conscious (for example, when trying to solve a problem, but giving up, and the answer comes to you later), we should assume that the mind is larger than the brain, containing more information. The brain only contains a subset of everything in the mind. I also suspect that the soul is conscious (superconscious, fully conscious) in a larger way than our normal human consciousness, but as part of the human condition, for some reason, our conscious experience is limited by the brain. Perhaps after we die we will "wake up" to the full scope of this superconscious experience, having full access to every memory (via the full complete re-experiencing of it).

This implies various possibilities of life after death and an eternal existence in utopia. But this is for another post.

My dog's view

My dog thinks I'm a god (or she would if she had a larger brain). She knows I'm not another dog. And she knows I have all kinds of magical gadgets (but she doesn't know what magic is), and she knows that I have power over her. I think she knows I love her, but I doubt her concept of love is as fully formed as mine. That means I love my dog more than my dog loves me.

Evolution of consciousness

The universe is set up initially such that biological life can develop. I was imagining how it could have naturally progressed to each stage on its own using only the natural laws.

Stars form from gravity clumping matter into balls. Certain molecules are produced in stars and ejected in explosions. This happens repeatedly. These molecules clump together into planets and before solidifying, they float to a layer of equilibrium. Then, stable organic molecules form in the right conditions (volcanic sea vents, or from lightning). Certain molecules form proto-cells having different chemical conditions inside and outside. RNA forms on its own and functions as a catalyst and as a template to build proteins.

At some point, consciousness arises. Before that, everything has been purely physical, meaning, atoms and molecules and electrons under the influence of forces of nature (gravity, electric, etc). This includes the nuclear energy interactions within stars. And this includes biological molecules and perhaps simple configurations within proto-cells.

Suddenly consciousness appears on the scene and begins interacting. But there is no force of the universe or property of the universe called consciousness. The ingredients of physics all existed from the beginning, and only these were needed to generate everything up to proto-cells. Sometime after that, consciousness appeared.

Assuming consciousness only arises in brains, evolution needs to explain the appearance of brains via naturalistic processes. It's hard to imagine unless there is some sort of guiding intelligence directing the molecules into advanced functioning such as cell division, cell division and reproduction, multiple celled organisms having specialized cells, and etc. At this level, the explanations of evolutionists for these kinds of activities seem like invented stories. Sure, if a DNA fragment appeared and certain associated proteins and enzymes were present to trigger and guide duplication of this DNA fragment and if the subsequent complex sequence of events required for cell division just sort of all happened in the proper sequence, evolution explains it. But merely telling that story proves nothing.

But at this point, once these conscious creatures can feel pain, suffering begins also. Why would an intelligent designer create creatures who suffer? In my opinion, there is no answer to these questions; it is not knowable. And merely declaring consciousness as an illusion or categorizing it with the term "emergent property" is unhelpful.

The universe is conscious

If God is good and beautiful (as I believe he/she is), and if there is badness and ugliness and suffering (which there clearly is), then that means God has created free-will conscious entities that choose to do these bad or ugly things. And since the universe itself at its core, generated conscious creatures capable of experiencing suffering, therefore, any of the aspects of the universe causing suffering are conscious, in that they chose to do things bad or ugly (by creating it this way).

For example, a virus which hurts the creatures it infects. It has no brain with which to generate and experience consciousness. But it does have intricate chemical and molecular mechanisms that result in the suffering. Somewhere along the line of this virus coming into existence, there was a conscious entity who made a choice resulting in the virus with its resultant suffering.

Perhaps a malevolent spiritual entity created the universe out of spite so he/she could enjoy the suffering he/she caused. I doubt this is what happened. More likely, is that the badness is a side-effect of the way this universe was constructed with its conscious creatures who must replenish their bodies with nutrients and energy, and who do this by eating others. And also, the fact that these conscious creatures are able to feel pain, so that when a tree falls on them, they suffer.

Perhaps the spiritual entity who determined the original parameters of the universe; perhaps he/she was surprised and horrified when the conscious creatures that later appeared began to suffer.

I suspect that there are different aspects of experienced consciousness based on the complexity of the interactions. Perhaps flowing electric charges are what triggers the experience of consciousness. This is a good explanation for why the consciousness of the human brain is so rich, because the neural network of the brain and the flow of electrons through the neurons is more complex by far than any other flow of electrons anywhere in the universe. Other less sophisticated flows of electrons result in a duller and dimmer experience of consciousness.

For example, I remember once waking from anesthesia. All I was aware of was that I existed, and some weird feeling of something in my mouth which I was fiddling with with my tongue. And similarly when waking from sleep, extremely groggy, barely awake at all. Probably, a scan of the brain at these times would show greatly reduced brain activity of the kind that generates consciousness.

So what does an ant consciously experience? Or the flow of lava from a volcano (which has moving electrons?) Or a star (which also has moving electrons?) Or the earth (with its moving electrons?) Or the universe as a whole?

In being conscious, all these elements of the universe have free-will choice. They have a decision making capability. Likely, this occurs via quantum mechanics, in which the randomness of the location of the electron (for example) upon wave function collapse is not so random after all. Conscious creatures can choose where the electron will appear, and this will guide its subsequent interaction, forever changing what will occur.

I think evolution is guided in this manner.


I recommend information from these people:

David Chalmers: Distinguishes between: (1) the easy problem of consciousness (identifying brain structures producing particular conscious experiences), and (2) the hard problem of consciousness (explaining why there is such a thing as consciousness, how it developed, and how it assists with an individual's survival).

Daniel Dennett: Proposes that consciousness is merely an illusion created by the functioning of the brain.

Stuart Hammeroff: An anesthesiologist. With Roger Penrose, that consciousness arises in certain patterns of certain microtubules of certain cells of the brain.

Roger Penrose: Many contributions: (1) collapse of the wave function occurs when gravitational field is stretched too much, and this generates qualia; (2) certain brain functions are not achieved via calculation but rather by intuition; (3) with Stuart Hammeroff, that consciousness arises in certain patterns of certain microtubules of certain cells of the brain.