How did complex consciousness emerge from gray-white, gel-like brain tissue? This question is arguably one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. The human brain is an unusually complex organ, made up of nearly 100 billion cells, each connected to 10,000 other cells, forming about 10 trillion neural connections.
Scientists have come a long way in understanding brain activity and its effects on human behavior. But so far, no one has been able to explain how brain activity produces sensations, emotions, and experiences. How do electrical signals and chemical signals transmitted between neurons cause pain? And how do we feel red?
There is a growing suspicion that traditional scientific methods may never answer these questions. Fortunately, there is an alternative that may eventually solve the mystery.
For much of the 20th century, it was taboo to explore the inside world of mystery. For most people, this is not a topic of “serious science”. Now, the situation has changed a lot, and it is generally accepted that consciousness is a serious scientific issue. However, many researchers who study consciousness underestimate the difficulty of the challenge, arguing that they can understand how consciousness is generated by simply continuing to examine the physical structure of the brain.
However, the question of consciousness is fundamentally different from any other scientific issue. One reason is that consciousness is unobservable. You can’t see a person’s heart, see how they feel and experience. If we only look at it from a third-person perspective, we simply don’t define the basis of consciousness.
Of course, scientists are used to dealing with unobservable things. For example, electrons are too small to see, but scientists have set up unobservable entities to explain phenomena we observe, such as the steam trajectory of lightning or cloud chambers. However, in this particular case of consciousness, the phenomena we want to explain cannot be observed. We know that consciousness exists not through experimentation, but through our own direct perception of feelings and experiences.
So, how to explain it with science? When processing observationdata, we can do experiments to test whether the observed results are consistent with theoretical predictions. However, this approach fails when we deal with unobservable consciousness “data”. What scientists can do is link unobservable experiences to observable brain activity by scanning the human brain and, based on the experimenter’s report on the individual’s conscious experience.
In this way, for example, we can determine that invisible hunger is associated with visible activity in the hypothalamus of the brain. However, the accumulation of this correlation is not equivalent to the principle of consciousness. What we ultimately want is to explain why the conscious experience is associated with brain activity, which is why this activity in the hypothalamus is accompanied by hunger.
In fact, we should nuns astoused by the difficulty of dealing with standard scientific methods. As Philip Goff, a philosophy and consciousness researcher at Durham University in the UK, in Galileo’s Mistakes: The Foundation of The Science of New Consciousness: Foundations for a New Science As Discussed in Consciousness), modern science is clearly designed to be a sense of exclusion.
Before Galileo, the father of modern science, scientists believed that the physical world was full of attributes, such as colors and smells. But what Galileo wanted was a pure quantitative science about the physical world, so he suggested that these attributes did not actually exist in the physical world, but in consciousness. He believes that consciousness exists outside the realm of science.
This world view forms the background of science today. As long as we work in science, what we can do is to establish a link between the quantitative brain processes we see and the qualitative experiencewes that we don’t see. At the same time, we can’t explain why they happen at the same time.
Consciousness is also material.
Philip Goff believes there is a way forward in the study of consciousness, rooted in the work of the 1920s philosopher Bertrand Russell and the scientist Arthur Eddington. Their starting point is that physical science doesn’t really tell us what matter is.
This may sound strange, but it turns out that physics is limited to telling us about the behavior of matter. For example, matter has mass and charge, and these two properties are described solely by behavior — such as attracting, rejecting, and resisting acceleration. Physics does not tell us what philosophers call the “nature of matter”, what matter itself is and how it exists.
As it turns out, there’s a huge gap in our scientific worldview — physics that leaves us completely unaware of what matter is. Russell and Eddington’s advice is to fill the gap with consciousness.
The result is a “panpsychism”, also known as the theory of all spirituality. This is an ancient theory that consciousness is the basic and universal characteristic of the material world. However, the “new wave” of the theory of universalism has no previous mysterious connotations. There is only matter, no spiritual or supernatural things, but matter can be described from two angles. Physical science is “from the outside”, that is, from the perspective of behavior to describe matter, while “from the inside” to describe matter, to use different forms of consciousness.
This means that consciousness is matter, and even elementary particles exhibit incredible basic forms of consciousness. Consider that consciousness has different complexities. We have good reason to believe that the conscious experience of horses is far from the complexity of humans, and the conscious experience of rabbits is not as complex as the horse’s. As organisms become simpler, consciousness may suddenly disappear at some point, but it may also be fading, but never completely. This means that even electrons have tiny elements of consciousness.
Universalism provides us with a simple, elegant way to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview. Strictly speaking, the theory cannot be tested; the imperviousness of consciousness means that any theory of consciousness that transcends pure correlation is strictly untested. However, we may be able to draw the simplest theory of how consciousness fits into scientific stories.
Although the current scientific methods do not offer any theory at all, only correlation, but the traditional claim that consciousness exists in the soul of the alternative theory, leading to a wanton depiction of nature, so that the mind and the body are diametrically opposed. The pan-heart theory avoids these two extremes, which is why some leading neuroscientists now use it as the best framework for building the science of consciousness. Maybe one day we’ll have a science about consciousness, but it won’t be like the science we know today. (Any day)