What is Consciousness?

Uploaded by anubis2814 on 06.02.2012

Consciousness is something that has confused humans since the beginning of our existence.
It is very real to all of us, and the idea of us not existing messes with our minds.
It helps act as a anti-suicide mechanism and through mirror neurons allows us to be not
only self-aware but realize that other people are as well. The sense of self probably evolved
as a way to ensure self preservation beyond the animal instincts. Most animals aren't
suicidal the survival instinct is too strong. With the ability to reason was the necessary
need to up that survival instinct with something else.
The brain doesn't deal with the death of others very well, but if the brain evolves ways to
think that the person has a part of them that lives on, it will help prevent things like
suicide. The ability to imagine has a lot to do with this as we can hold the image and
emotions and essence of a person in our mind even when they aren't there(though its actually
our perception of them because we can't read their mind) So the brain gives us weird sensations
all of which can be replicated in a lab making us think that there is a presence or a soul
even where there is none.  Consciousness is where the idea of the soul
and spirit came from. Archeologists find that things like rituals, art and burial are indications
of belief in a soul which date the idea of the soul back to at least 200,000 years ago.
The ever present awareness of self has lead to many of the major religions, some believing
the consciousness to be immortal just living in different bodies, and some believing your
soul is immortal and will be rewarded or punished after your body dies.
Your brain is made up of made up of multiple components. Reptilian and animal brains as
well as the neocortex(though they can be further segmented). The Neo-cortex is the closest
part of you that could be considered to have free will. You have about as much control
over the other parts of your brain as you have control over your cats, you may own them
but you don't control them. There is a constant struggle between the neo-cortex and the animal
brains, and if the neo-cortex is not educated or strengthened enough it will lose more often.
However the brain has a way of rationalizing why you did something after the fact because
it can cause cognitive dissonance. You will incorporate those rationalization into your
memory of the event and since you rewrite your memory every time you access it you will
believe you did what you did consciously and by choice. Neurologists have said that humans
don't have free will but what they do have is free wont. The Neo-cortex can stop the
animal brain from doing something, but it is difficult for the human brain to make the
animal brain do something, just like it is hard, without training techniques, to make
your pet do something it doesn't want to do. Emergence is a property where the whole becomes
greater than the sum of the parts, each piece of say a car, on its own while it may serve
a function, now becomes something much more than itself. Mathematics has shown that not
only does order continually move toward chaos (with is a property we define not nature),
but also that order is constantly springing from chaos.  Jarod Diamond's book, "The third
Chimpanzee" Points out that every attribute we think of as human shows up in some other
form of animal, especially social ones. Our brain and enlarged neo-cortex just allowed
all of these mental evolutionary adaptations to reach a point to which the whole became
much greater than all of the parts. this is called consciousness and what neuroscience
is delving quite strongly into at the moment and plans to have the brain completely mapped
by 2020 as soon as our computers are fast enough.
Ignorance of what scientists have discovered continues to lead to old and logical sounding
arguments for the religious. There are three ways to explain consciousness:
1. It resulted from the random forces of nature 2. It simply exists
3. It was caused by another self-existent consciousness (God)
The problem is is that there are several logical fallacies involved. #1 is actually a strawman
statement although i doubt many conservative religious has looked into the science both
evolution or the properties of emergence. Nature is hardly a random force. The universe
follows many many complex laws that are inherent to this universe. Physicists are postulating
that its possible that alternative universes have other laws they follow but that's speculation
at this point. These laws exist, there is random mutation but natural selection is specific
to the eco-system and environmental pressures which are constantly changing.  Understanding
chaos theory was actually the last linchpin I needed to lose my faith.
Part 2 is believed by many in the east and consciousness has always exists. Of course
our personalities are dependent upon the hardware in our white and grey matter. A person who
has brain damage ends up with a completely different personality. You now have a completely
different view of life different temperament and sometimes different beliefs. We are all
on brain drugs, each with a different cocktail. We are dependent on our biological hardware
for our consciousness. So if there is a soul, it really has little evidence for effecting
the next body you inhabit as temperament, emotion and knowledge are are linked to the
composition of the brain. Though it is easy to find patterns in places where they don't
exist, and if you knew someone with a similar temperament, look or essence the assumption
that they were reincarnated from a dead relative would not be a far leap. Of course that goes
to the point that an Asian man thought his dead wife was reincarnated as an elephant
at the zoo, and was caught engaging in marriage like behavior with it. He was sent to prison
for it. Part 3 is what is called special pleading
in terms of science and logical fallacies. God a very very complex organism doesn't have
to have been created but we did? That is giving god a special treatment and is highly improbable.
Emergence is actually much more probably that a highly complex being popping out of no where
or having always existed. You might as well just say fairies or wizards did it. you have
equal amounts of evidence. Zarkoff45 points out that while the religious
are currently for the most part ignorant on brain science, they will soon probably wage
war on neuroscience even more viciously than on evolution. It is one of the last god of
the gaps arguments and if a soul doesn't exist then almost all religions and versions of
spirituality don't exist. The concept of going to heaven wont work as well without the brain
and body. Also with neural implants, life extension and backing up one's brain on a
computer the idea of soul and heaven will face its greatest challenge yet, unless they
just say that heaven is a computer that allows your brain memory to exist and interact until
your body resurrects. They will resist it until it becomes so overwhelming evident and
then change their religion to make it fit the new science, or ignore the massive contradictions
between the two.