Reductionists, (especially readers of Dawkins) are convinced that brain chemistry explains consciousness but that view has been proved inadequate. The reductionists are doing a bait and switch, switching brain function for consciousness. Those who claim to evoke mystical experience by brain stimulating use no reliable means of measuring religious experience. One of the major arguments, against the reductionist view, is known as “the hard problem.” The hard problem says that there's a texture to consciousness that can't be communicated, much less reduced to physical origins, but is with us all and thus its existence is self evident. That argument is illustrated by Thomas Negal in his famous article “What is it Like to Be a Bat?”. We can have all the facts science can provide about bats but that wont tell us what its like to be a bat. Consciousness has an irreduceable dimension that is fundamental to understanding it and yet scientific reductionism can't tell us about it. In fact some can't admit it exists, even though we all know it does. Sean Carroll dismisses the idea saying, “Nagel actually doesn’t spend too much time providing support for this stance, as he wants to take it as understood and move on." As though we don't know about the personal dimension to consciousness because we are all conscious (or most of us).
Nagel wrote a book way back in 2012, Mind and Cosmos, for which he was raked over the coals by all manner of scientifically inclined critics. Nagel's basic argument is that because there is this dimention of mind (the hard problem—we can't know what it's like to experience consciousness by reducing the concept to empirical data)-- the subtitle of the book says it-- “...the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.” He did not argue that evolution is wrong but that the reductionist understanding will never unlock the hard problem because they can't admit there's an aspect of the world their methods can't grasp. He says this is not just about brain and mind but that “it invades our understanding of the entire cosmos and its history...a true appreciation of the difficulty of the problem must eventually change our conception of the place of the physical sciences in describing the natural order.” He points to the hubris in modern scientific reductionism in thinking we can understand and explain all things, he argues that we don't understand much of the universe at all. He is arguing abou?”.t what can and cannot in principle be understood by existing methods.?”. He argues that the failure of psychophysical reductionism to produce a theory of everything marks the inability of reductionism to penetrate the mind-body problem. He argues for a mind-like process in nature but he is not arguing for God. He's an atheist. He introduces teleology back?”. into science.
Negal also argues that the connections between the physical and the mental that emergentists think are responsible for consciousness are all higher order. They concern only complex organisms and don't require any fundamental change in the physical conception of the elements that make up those organisms. "An emergent account of the mental is compatible with a physically reductionist account of the biological system in which mind emerges."So emergence doesn't require any change in the 'ground up' conception of what makes up the universe.To be a true explanation, emergence can't just be a set of correspondences between the physical and mental. It must also be systematic, providing principles or laws linking the two. It must tell us why, or at least how, the physical emerges into the mental.
But even with a systematic theory, emergence seems like an unsatisfactory explanation of the mental. That purely physical elements, when arranged in a certain way, and even if systematically accounted for, should result in consciousness seems like magic. That physical things should exhibit, at the macro level, properties and relations not constituted out of the properties and relations of the physical parts making it up seems like magic. In other cases of emergence, we can understand how the micro properties of the parts give rise to the macro properties of the whole. Liquidity emerging from H2O molecules is an example.
Because emergence of the mental remains mysterious, we should seriously consider an explanation of the more fundamental constituents of the universe. This kind of explanation would draw on a general monism which posits that the basic building blocks contain properties that explain not only physical but also mental properties at the macro level. So there's a deeper more comprehensive reality that the physical is only one expression of. This deeper framework would explain physical and mental as two aspects of this more fundamental reality. The physical would be an explanation of phenomena from the outside, and the mental would explain things from the inside. "Consciousness in this case is not an effect of the brain processes that are its physical conditions: rather, those brain processes are in themselves more than physical, and the incompleteness of the physical description of the world is exemplified by the incompleteness of their (brain processes) purely physical description."nism or dualism really depends upon how the terms are used, I don't intend to go into that here. I don't necessarily agree with him on monism but I do about the mental as a basic property of nature.
Carroll reviews Mind and Cosmos, he justifies the sorry treatment it was given by the followers of new atheism, who paned it without giving it a chance. They basically treated Nagel like he is a young earth creationist (I believe he's an atheist). Carroll's justification:
Back in the dark ages a person with heretical theological beliefs would occasionally be burned at the stake, Nowadays, when a more scientific worldview has triumphed and everyone knows that God doesn’t exist (emphasis mine), the tables have turned, and any slight deviation from scientific/naturalist/atheist/Darwinian doctrine will have you literally tied to a pole and set on fire. Fair is fair. Or, at least, people will write book reviews and blog posts that disagree with you. But I think we all agree that’s just as bad, right?
Translation: “this is not about facts, truth , logic, or reason. Obey the preisthood of knowledge and don't think. But hey we are imposing this ideology so the world will be safe for free thought, just remember to stick with the right ideas.” He says everyone knows God doesn't exist, 90% of the population is excluded from “everyone.” His answer to the hard problem is basically that it's an old idea and David Chalmers likes it. He accuses Negal of using bad reasoning but his only example is a general allusion to “common sense” which he takes for bad logic, and does not bother to document (although I stipulate that he does appeal to that standard several times).. Appeal to common sense is not the best. Philosophers tend to hate it and its easy prey for people who themselves do not understand argument. For example Carroll belabors Nagel's admission that he's not an expert, not part of the priesthood of knowledge. He misses Nagel's rhetorical strategy in emphasizing consciousness, judgement and intuition in an argument about consciousness. We are all experts in being conscious. He also includes principle of sufficient reason, which is an immanently reasonable standard and one many great philosophers accept. Carroll's rejection of that principle is no doubt based upon the fact that he does not have a sufficient reason for ignoring the need for prior cause, necessity, and can't answer the questions raised by those who want real answers. His major reason for his beliefs is that they free him from belief.
In attacking Nagel's position that we need an explanation for physical law. Carroll says “They [people such as Negal] cannot simply be (as others among us are happy to accept). And the only way he can see that happening is if 'mind' and its appearance in the universe are taken as fundamental features of reality, not simply by products of physical evolution.”Believers are actually tortured with all of that unnecessary thinking? And I thought we were benighted. Apparently it's the skeptics who are happy not to ask questions. There's less to being a “free thinker” than I thought. Carroll then contemplates the terrible cosequences for human reason if we accepted that consciousness is not purely physical, (as though thye mental dimension just isn't there even though we all experience it all tye time); “Imagine what it would entail to truly believe that consciousness is not accounted for by physics. It would entail, among other things, that the behavior of ordinary matter would occasionally deviate from that expected on the basis of physics alone.”There's an expectation that it wont deviate? If it's not prescriptive, if there is nothing to make the regularity stick then we should expect deviation however rare. But of course that's one of those things free thinkers should be happy not to question.
What would it entail to truly believe that consciousness is not accounted for by physics? Belief in God? Nowhere does Nagel go near that conclusion, and in calling himself a monist he could be veering away from that conclusion. Nor does he actually say that physics can't account for consciousness, only that I hasn't, and wont as long as it refuses to consider a mental dimension. Apparently even one step in the direction of God is too close. Carroll then says, “Several billion years ago there weren’t conscious creatures here on Earth. It was just atoms and particles, bumping into each other in accordance with the rules of physics and chemistry. Except, if mind is not physical, at some point they swerved away from those laws, since remaining in accordance with them would never have created consciousness.” Come again? There are laws that determine things? They can't be deviated from? If thye regularity of naturevis onjly a description of “tendencies” why shouldn't there be deviation? More of that double minded assumption, laws are not prescriptive except when they help us pretend there's no God. “So, at what point does this deviation from purely physical behavior kick in, exactly? It’s the immortal soul vs. the Dirac equation problem.”Nagel never says we have an immortal soul. Where does that come from. It's like he's arguing with someone other than Nagel.
By that statement he means that if the process of our brains “isn't simply following the laws of physics” (another implication of mandated physical law) then “you have the duty to explain in exactly what way the electrons in our atoms fail to obey their equations of motion. Is energy conserved in your universe? Is momentum? Is quantum evolution unitary, information-preserving, reversible? Can the teleological effects on quantum field observables be encapsulated in an effective Hamiltonian?”rst of all, Negal doesn't say anything about the consciousness dimension beinjg opposed to the laws of physics. Neither do I. Who says there is not a conscious dimension to the laws of physics that we don't know about? But then would be like admitting the priesthood of knowledge doesn't all things. Secondly, the smokescreen of Nagel's inability to answer specific questions is, as smokescreens usually are, a red herring. If it'd s dimension we don't know, then of course we don't know. He has no argument to disprove the hard problem, and no means of demonstrating that Negal's surmises about it are not sound. Carroll's basic argument is “this can't be true because of it was it would mean the priesthood is not all knowing and there might be a God.” In Carroll's world those reasons are as sound and valid as the equations to which he alludes.
The veracity of this charge is summed up in his final paragraph in the phrase:
He [Nagel] advocates overthrowing things that are precisely defined, extremely robust, and impressively well-tested (the known laws of physics, natural selection) on the basis of ideas that are rather vague and much less well-supported (a conviction that consciousness can’t be explaine physically, a demand for intelligibility, moral realism).”
Nagel doesn't advocate overthrowing anything, nor does he suggest departing from physics or the methods of scientific exploration. He even says that dualism is a wrong choice. All he is really saying is that there's a dimension that we don't know much about and until we start including in our explanations our explanations lack something in explanatory power. Carroll's answer to that seems to be “don't question the faith!” If there is a dimension we don't understand and admitting that is of “enormous consequence” then if true the explanation offered by materialism, physicalism, science itself is not the best. That explanation doesn't account for all the data, one of the criterion for best explanation. The TS argument assumes that dimension and since it doesn't overturn the lawes of physics, but assumes them, then it is a better explanation. Carroll is an astrophycist and a theoretical physicist, Moore Center for Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, California Institute of Technology. He's authored many books. 42-55 1 me 2. Nagel, Thomas. "What is it like to be a bat?", Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, 1979, p. 166.w.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/08/22/mind-and-cosmos/ accessed 9/14/15. 3.Sean Carroll, “Mind and Cosmos,” Sean Carroll (blog)(posted August 22, 2013) URL: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/08/22/mind-and-cosmos/ accessed 9/14/15. 4. Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,. Oxford: Oxford, London: New York University Press, first edition, 2012, 3. 5. Ibid, 6. Ibid. 55 7. Ibid. 57 8. Carroll, "Mind..." op, cit. 9-14 Ibid.