Something different?

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates

Font Size

SCREEN

Profile

Layout

Menu Style

Cpanel
You are here You are here: Home Study Psychology & Mind Consciousness Nonlocal Consciousness
  Nonlocal Consciousness       From: thebigview
conscious experience-04-sm

Many regard consciousness as the final frontier of science. Although science has produced a great deal of knowledge about the brain and the nervous system, it did not (yet) produce a viable theory of consciousness.

  • There is the seemingly intractable problem that consciousness cannot be measured, detected, or quantified in any way.
  • To further complicate things, consciousness is about inner (first-person) experience and its subjective qualities, whereas science relies on ideas and experiences that can be observed and verified by third parties.

The investigation of inner phenomena involves subjective, idiothetic accounts, whereas the investigation of outer phenomena involves objective, verifiable accounts. It would seem that the scientific method, which relies on repeatable experiments to test a hypothesis, reaches its limits when dealing with consciousness. One must therefore ask whether science is able to explain consciousness at all.

Scientist's response

Scientists have responded to these problems in two ways.

One group claims that consciousness is not a scientific concept to begin with, that its is too vague, and that claims involving consciousness are unverifiable.

  • This position was taken to the extreme by the 20th century behaviourist movement, which simply ignores consciousness.
  • It tends to see the mind as a hypothetical construct, disregarding internal states entirely, only considering external states (behaviour).

The other group of scientists acknowledges the existence of internal conscious states and claims that these can be fully explained by neuroscience.

  • There is a variety of such views, known as materialism, reductionism, functionalism, and biological naturalism.
  • Some proponents of these views assert that consciousness is a “bag of tricks” (Dennett) and that - by and large - it has already been explained by neuroscience.
Brain as a TV

But perhaps this is jumping to conclusions. Science postulates a materialist understanding of consciousness, but there are significant gaps in this understanding.

The materialist view occasionally appears like that of the mythical tribesman who discovered a TV set.

  • Although ignorant of the existence of radio waves, he is confident that he understands the origin of the voices and images in the TV.
  • After he has carefully disassembled the TV, he is able to demonstrate that applying a voltage to certain points produces an audible noise in the speaker, or a dot of light on the screen.
  • He has even worked out how the electron beam can be modulated to create a matrix of dots.
  • On account of these discoveries, he triumphantly declares that the voices and pictures are produced inside the electronic circuits of the TV set and that the operating principle of the TV set can be explained without invoking “supernatural” radio waves.

Yet, his fellow tribesmen are not quite satisfied with this explanation.

  • It seems too mechanical to them and they keep wondering why the voices and images in the TV set appear so real.
  • The tribal scientist justifies himself: “We have not worked out all the details yet, but we understand the principle.”

This situation is perhaps analogous to present day consciousness research.

Mainstream scientists and philosophers believe that consciousness is based on and produced by the brain.

  • This might be compared to the idea that TV images and sounds are produced inside the TV set.
  • Obviously, in case of the TV set, it is only half the truth.
  • The TV images and sounds are neither local to the TV set, nor do they have a life of their own.
  • They are produced elsewhere and transmitted by radio waves.
  • We all know that a TVs have an antenna and a receiver that pick up radio waves and translate them into voltages to generate images and sounds.

What if the brain and nervous system relate to consciousness like the TV set to radio signals?

  • Let's call this the nonlocal model of consciousness.

If we accept the nonlocal model of consciousness provisionally, we can compare TV reception to sense perception.

  • We can compare qualia (conscious experience) to TV images and sounds; we can compare memories to the recording function, thoughts to the playback and edit functions, and mental chatter to audiovisual noise.
  • Furthermore, if the nervous system/brain functions as receiver/modulator of consciousness rather than its producer, it follows that consciousness is not based on the brain, but that the brain is based on consciousness.

There are a number of theoretical considerations and phenomena that point in this direction.

  • These phenomena show the limits of the current mainstream (materialistic) understanding of consciousness and provide theoretical support for the nonlocal model of consciousness.

In the remainder of this section, we will look at five such points:

  1. the epistemic gap in materialism,
  2. the absence of a neural correlate of consciousness,
  3. out-of-body experiences (OBEs),
  4. near-death experiences (NDEs), and
  5. the measurement problem in quantum physics.
The epistemic gap

The epistemic gap, also known was the explanatory gap, is the gaping hole in materialist ontology.

  • It is the failure to explain how something immaterial, such as conscious experience, arises from something material, such as the brain.
  • The epistemic gap can also be phrased as follows:

    • How does subjective experience arise from electrochemical processes in the brain?
    • Subjective experience - or qualia - seems to be entirely nonphysical.
    • No scientist has managed to explain how qualia arise and why they arise.
    • After all, we can perfectly well imagine an organism responding to external signals and stimuli without being conscious of them.

    Materialism offers two different approaches to deal with the “problem” of mind: reductionism and emergentism.

    • Reductionism argues that it is principally possible to reduce higher-order systems to lower-order systems.
    • It postulates that mind is a higher-order system that can be reduced - in principle - to the biological system of the human brain and body.
    • The biological system can in turn be reduced to chemistry, which can again be reduced to physics.
    • Therefore - according to reductionism - mind is ultimately physical.

    The problem with this approach is that reductionism cannot point out the causal relationships involved in each step of the reduction. On this account, reductionism fails.

    The non-reductionist approach - known as emergentism - holds that the higher-order system emerges from the lower-order system on account of supervenience. The concept of supervenience is defined as follows:

    • A set of properties A is said to supervene upon another set B if no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties.
    • In other words, any difference in the higher-order system implies a difference in the lower-order system.
    • It is said that mind supervenes on the biological system and that mind displays new emergent properties which are not intrinsic to the underlying system.

    Upon closer inspection, we find that emergentism suffers from the same problem as reductionism.

    • It fails to account for the causal relationships between higher and lower order systems.
    • Supervenience cannot explain why properties are related as they appear.
    • Hence, invoking supervenience is a bit like appealing to magic. It is not an explanation at all.
    • This strongly suggests that the epistemic gap cannot be bridged by materialism.
No neural correlate of consciousness

The French philosopher René Descartes held that the soul was located in the pineal gland and that consciousness emanates from it.

  • This is often cited as the first attempt to relate consciousness to a biological structure.
  • While the study of the brain can be traced back to ancient Egypt, modern neuroscience began in the latter half of the 20th century.
  • Since then, neuroscientific research has produced a massive amount of data and knowledge about the brain which is still growing at a fascinating pace.

One of the goals of neuroscience is to correlate mental states with biophysical states, systems and processes in the brain. This effort has only partly been successful. For example,

  • We can correlate the capacity of speech to the Wernicke and Broca areas.
  • We can correlate motor action to the motor cortex,
  • Vision to the optical nerve and the visual cortex,
  • Certain feelings such as arousal, pleasure, and excitement to neurotransmitters.

However, the search for the neural correlate of consciousness has come up empty.

  • Decades of research did not produce what was originally envisioned by neuroscientists – the correlate or substrate of phenomenal consciousness.

At the beginning of the 21st century, conscious experience remains as enigmatic as ever.

  • This is not to say that it eludes neuroscience completely.
  • Many epiphenomena of conscious experience - from brainwaves and brain chemistry to neural activity - have been explored and can be matched to certain types of experience.

Yet, it is phenomenal experience itself that puzzles scientists.

  • There is no causal explanation that leads from brain states to qualia.
  • There are no neural correlates for thought, beliefs, and ideas.
  • In fact, most neuroscientists have given up the search for the neural correlate of conscious experience. They feel that it is the wrong approach.
  • The absence of a neural correlate suggests that consciousness does not originate or reside in the brain at all.
Out-of-body experiences

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are ostensibly based on the separation of consciousness from the body.

  • Those who experience an OBE report that they see their own body from the outside, that they float through space, and that they can penetrate solid objects.
  • With a prevalence of 5%-10%, OBEs are more common than generally believed.

Although an OBE often occurs spontaneously, or as a consequence of body trauma, it can also be self-induced.

  • Experienced out-of-body travellers can prolong the experience and travel at will.

There are two theories about it:

  • One says that there is something that leaves the body;
  • The other says nothing leaves the body and that OBEs are complex hallucinations caused by non-ordinary brain states.

Both theories are problematic, because the first relies on the paranormal concept of an “astral body”, and the second theory cannot account for the complexity of the experience and its veridical aspects.

There are many reports of so-called veridical OBEs. These involve correct accounts of remote objects, events, or people which are later verified by a third person.

  • For example, the subject might report about people in another room, or things that are outside the field of vision and cannot possibly be perceived through the sense organs.

Several veridical OBEs have occurred under laboratory conditions.

  • Dr. Michael Sabom reported 32 cases of cardiac arrest patients who were able to describe their resuscitation in great detail.
  • Dr. Pim van Lommel and Dr. Kenneth Ring have published similar studies with well over 100 cases of veridical OBEs.
  • Dr. Charles Tart has conducted an experiment where the subject has correctly identified a 5-digit number that was placed on top of a shelf - invisible to the subject- after an OBE.

Mainstream science cannot explain these findings.

  • Veridical OBEs can be explained if we assume that consciousness is nonlocal to the brain.
Near-death experiences

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are reported by 10%-15% of all people who find themselves in a life-threatening situation due to critical surgery, cardiac arrest, an accident, or some other cause.

  • Since most of these people end up in a hospital, the conditions for scientific study are favourable.

The first case studies were published by E. Kübler-Ross, R. Moody et al in the 1970s.

  • Since then a large amount of reports and studies with thousands of cases have been collected, more recently by B. Greyson, M. Morse, S. Parnia, P.V. Lommel and others.

NDEs are conscious experiences at impending death that have recognisable features, such as a sense of well-being, love, and peace, movement through a tunnel or a passage, a bright spiritual light, meeting deceased relatives and friends and/or spiritual beings.

  • The most astounding observation is that consciousness continues after clinical death.
  • Recent studies have shown that these experiences can occur even when neuronal activity in the brain has ceased, so that - according to neuroscience - there should not be any conscious experience at all.

Sceptics argue that NDEs are caused by physiological processes in the dying brain.

  • For example, they hold that the experience of a tunnel and bright light is caused by the loss of cell function in the visual system due to anoxia (lack of oxygen).
  • However, while every patient with cardiac arrest experiences anoxia, not everyone experiences a NDE and not every NDE features a tunnel experience, which questions the causal connection.

Other sceptics argue that the experience is caused by the release of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) or endorphines in the brain.

  • Again, DMT release does not necessarily result in a NDE.
  • DMT is also released at night time during sleep, though in smaller quantities, and it does not have the life-changing effect that NDEs are known for.
  • Furthermore, if NDEs were a drug-induced, one would expect the experience to have personal random contents, much like a dream or an LSD trip.
  • Reports of congenitally blind people who were suddenly able to experience vision in a NDE make biological explanations even harder.

So far, there is no coherent physiological explanation for the NDE phenomenon.

Dr. Pim Van Lommel writes in his paper About The Continuity Of Our Consciousness:

  • “According to our concept, grounded on the reported aspects of consciousness experienced during cardiac arrest, we can conclude that our consciousness could be based on fields of information, consisting of waves, and that it originates in the phase-space.
    […]
    Such understanding fundamentally changes one’s opinion about death, because of the almost unavoidable conclusion that at the time of physical death consciousness will continue to be experienced in another dimension, in an invisible and immaterial world, the phase-space, in which all past, present and future is enclosed. Research on NDE cannot give us the irrefutable scientific proof of this conclusion, because people with a NDE did not quite die, but they all were very, very close to death, without a functioning brain.”
Measurement problem in quantum mechanics

In short, the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is the problem how and why Schrödinger's wave function collapses upon measurement.

  • The word “collapse” describes a transition from a superposition of different states of a particle, as described by Schrödinger's wave function, to a single state upon interaction.

The measurement of physical quantum system always results in a definite state, whereas the wave function describes the evolution of the same system as a multitude of superposed states, each with a certain probability.

  • In abstract terms, the wave function collapse describes the reduction of a system of potentialities to a single definite state.

Since it is impossible to observe the collapse directly, a number of different interpretations exist.

  • These interpretations revolve around several key questions, namely how nature behaves at the subatomic level, whether nature is deterministic or non-deterministic, and whether the observer plays a causal role in the wave function collapse.

The Copenhagen interpretation is one of the more popular interpretations of the measurement problem.

  • It was first formulated by Heisenberg and Bohr in the 1920s, and it became later synonymous with indeterminism and Bohr's correspondence principle.

Today, there are several variations of this interpretation.

  • Since it asserts collapse upon measurement, one particular version of the Copenhagen interpretation posits that collapse is caused by a conscious observer, which implies that consciousness plays a participatory role in the measurement.
  • Hence, it is called the Participatory Anthropic Principle (PAP), following J.A. Wheeler's Anthropic Principle.

While PAP is considered speculative, many scientists feel that the classical paradigm of a separate observer can be questioned and that the role of consciousness needs to be reevaluated in view of quantum mechanics.

  • The idea of consciousness interacting non-locally with physical systems could therefore be an important element in understanding how reality works at the subatomic level.

Consciousness

Prev Next Page:

Consciousness and the Direction of Struc…

Consciousness and the Direction of Structure

  Consciousness and the Direction of Structure       From: Beyond Belief  By Tony Wright (pdf version) The molecular origins of our species wide insanityThe fundamental causality of our self inflicted suffering Solving the mystery of human evolution using Darwin’s basic theory required no more than a simple reinterpretation of existing data and the application of basic biological principles. The same approach simultaneously resolves several other major enigmas in disciplines rarely considered within the same context.  By following in the footsteps of William of Ockham taking the path of least resistance leads to a simple, coherent and elegant explanation for our unique physiological traits and sheds much...

Read more

Consciousness and Experience

  Consciousness and Experience       From: Bill Meacham Click to view larger image Humans are alleged to have consciousness.  I say “alleged” not because I doubt the assertion but because the term “consciousness” is, in my opinion, terribly misused.  It has many meanings, and people employing the term don’t usually make clear what meaning they are using; instead they simply assume that others know what they are talking about.  A great danger of this approach is that one can use the same term in different senses and thereby assert things that actually make no sense. I prefer to speak of being conscious rather than of consciousness.  “Consciousness” is a noun and...

Read more

The Ultimate Deception

The Ultimate Deception

  The Ultimate Deception       From: Noel Huntley, Ph.D Beyond Duality — What's Happening On Planet Earth, Or The Ultimate Swindle Click to view larger image If anyone takes a really good look at our world today they surely can hardly deny that there is something wrong with this picture. How many people question our state of evolution and its professed history? Unfortunately we can be programmed to view a negative existence as normal or natural. If we can observe these undesirable elements and recognise them as not part of a properly evolving world, then we can be sure the more realistic situation is one which is...

Read more

Nonlocal Consciousness

  Nonlocal Consciousness       From: thebigview Click to view larger image Many regard consciousness as the final frontier of science. Although science has produced a great deal of knowledge about the brain and the nervous system, it did not (yet) produce a viable theory of consciousness. There is the seemingly intractable problem that consciousness cannot be measured, detected, or quantified in any way. To further complicate things, consciousness is about inner (first-person) experience and its subjective qualities, whereas science relies on ideas and experiences that can be observed and verified by third parties. The investigation of inner phenomena involves subjective, idiothetic accounts, whereas the investigation of outer...

Read more

Conscious Breathing

Conscious Breathing

  Change your Life through Conscious Breathing       From: Fractal Enlightenment   Click to view larger image “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.” — Andrew Weil At a recent Yoga class, the teacher mentioned the importance of breathing and how it is our companion for life. Breath is so much more than just oxygen supply; its the one thing that remains constant and keeps us alive. Morihei Ueshiba said, “Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.”

Read more

STO, STS, and Densities

STO, STS, and Densities

  STO, STS, and Densities       From: Montalk This article explains the system of “densities”, “Service-to-Self”, and “Service-to-Others” as discussed in the Ra Material and Cassiopaean Transcripts and shows how they relate to the occult concepts of the etheric and astral planes. Instead of summarizing what’s already been said, my aim here is more to provide new insights and resolve some common misunderstandings.

Read more

Cultivating Consciousness in an Unconsci…

Cultivating Consciousness in an Unconscious World

  Cultivating Consciousness in an Unconscious World   From: New Dawn Magazine | By Richard Smoley Politicians constantly evade the truth. Why can they get away with it? According to a recent study conducted at Harvard University, it’s because people have such terrible attention spans. Poor attention is universal to all animals that we managed to study.

Read more

Is Your God a Devil?

Is Your God a Devil?

  Is Your God a Devil?       From: New Dawn | by By Richard Smoley It is one of the most familiar and reassuring lines in scripture: The Lord is my shepherd. But when you think about it, the metaphor is a disturbing one. It’s true that a shepherd looks after his sheep. But he also shears them and kills them and eats them. Does the God we adore act totally with our best interests at heart, or are we a species of livestock that he uses for his own ends?

Read more

Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousnes…

Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousness

  Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousness      From: LiveScience At a physics meeting last October [2004], Nobel laureate David Gross outlined 25 questions in science that he thought physics might help answer. Nestled among queries about black holes and the nature of dark matter and dark energy were questions that wandered beyond the traditional bounds of physics to venture into areas typically associated with the life sciences. One of the Gross's questions involved human consciousness. He wondered whether scientists would ever be able to measure the onset consciousness in infants and speculated that consciousness might be similar to what physicists call a "phase transition,"...

Read more

Consciousness as a Fundamental Building …

Consciousness as a Fundamental Building Block of the Universe

  Consciousness: a Fundamental Building Block of the Universe   In this wonderful TED talk, the philosopher David Chalmers invites for a new paradigm in science in which consciousness is established as a fundamental and possibly universal building block of nature. Consciousness is a fundamental aspect of our existence. There’s nothing we know about more directly… but at the same time it’s the most mysterious phenomenon in the universe.

Read more

Contents - Consciousness