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Comment: Re:Consciousness. (Score 1) 729

by Burnhard (#36260512) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?
I would suggest that consciousness is the canvass that physics paints on. I realise this isn't very scientific and is not an explanation, but in the absence of any theory of what consciousness actually is (except of course the idea that it's just an illusion, although what is being fooled is itself a question that has not been answered), that is how I prefer to visualise it.

Comment: Re:Standard Model is enough (Score 1) 729

by Burnhard (#36258262) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?

the idea that known physics will be able to account for the brain is enormously far in the lead

You're making an error in your analysis here, by assuming that the physical facts determine all of the facts. A functional/materialist description of the brain does not solve the "hard problem". The only solution to the hard problem I've ever read is one that simply denies it exists. Not a very satisfying solution. Let me ask you a question: once all of the forces, fields, particles and laws of physics have been enumerated, will there be anything else left to explain?

Comment: Re:Penrose is a mystic (Score 1) 729

by Burnhard (#36258190) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?
Why do you assume QM is only a low level causal phenomena? Do you subscribe to the view that state vector collapse is a real procedure, then? I realise that I cannot get an interference fringe by throwing cricket balls through slits at a screen, but perhaps the classifications you have made (the hierarchy of levels) are a function of your conscious experience, or rather the regularities that your brain is able to distinguish between therein, rather than a function of how the Universe actually is? Things are not as they seem, are they.

Comment: Re:Recently? (Score 3, Interesting) 729

by Burnhard (#36258068) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?
Which goes to show how people prefer reading material that confirms their already strongly held opinions.

I also read both Hoftstadter and Dennett. The former made a similar mistake to the one you accuse Penrose of making: attaching almost mystical properties to the concept of recursion and the emergence of complexity. Dennett has similar problems, but more than that he has mistaken a model of cognition for a model of conscious experience. He side steps the explanatory gap by simply denying it exists, just as Hoftstadter denies it by promoting the idea that it is simply an emergent property, without being about to explain exactly what the nature of that property actually is.

Comment: Re:First things first (Score 1) 729

by Burnhard (#36257914) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?

Explain fMRI studies that indicate that one actually makes decisions PRE-consciously yet still makes consciousness relevant

Penrose included the implications of these experiments in his book, Shadows of the Mind. But to turn the argument on its head, what would be the point of evolving any kind of conscious awareness at all if consciousness is simply a detached observer of events in the brain? The argument that it must have some causal role is a powerful one, even if it is not immediately obvious (and I'm sure you'll agree that this one set of experiments is not the last word on the matter).

I think Penrose is on much firmer ground when he states that QM effects are taken advantage of by the brain. After all, large scale QM effects are taken advantage of in other biological systems (photosynthesis for example). A relationship between QM and consciousness has long been suggested and I think it would be foolish to simply dismiss it.

Comment: The Emperors New Mind (Score 1) 729

by Burnhard (#36257716) Attached to: Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?
I'm sorry, but "recently"? I read Penrose first book on this subject in 1990. Actually it was reading this book that inspired me to go to University to study Intelligent Systems (an oxymoron, so I discovered). I also have his second book on this subject, Shadows of the Mind, on my bookshelf.

I find that his basic argument that there is something missing in our conception of reality that makes understanding of conscious experience impossible, to be fundamentally correct. Philosophers differ on whether or not consciousness and the mysteriousness of QM are related. Intuitively I would suggest that they are, but science by intuition isn't very robust so I won't explain why.

It's important not to forget that Physics and Mathematics are good tools for describing the regularities of experience, but they have absolutely nothing to say about the nature of that experience. Philosophers like Dennett would do away with the entire problem by simply denying it. David Chalmers would take the opposing view, that conscious experience can never be explained with a purely functionalist or materialist world view.

Perhaps the most interesting recent advance in this area was the discovery that plants take advantage of quantum effects in optimising photosynthesis. Evin Harris Walker makes a convincing argument for quantum effects in the brain (although he tends to focus on tunnelling, rather than the microtubule coherence that Penrose points us to). I would find it extraordinary if the brain did not take advantage of such effects in order to increase its efficiency.

I think the most important point in all of this however, is that we know very little about consciousness and we know very little about how the brain works. But more than that, it is my belief that even after science has enumerated all of the particles, fields and laws of physics, there will still be something left to explain. This is the central mystery of conscious experience that Penrose talks about and it is why Chalmers says that conscious experience does not logically supervene on the physical.

Comment: Re:UK Government Hinders WiFi (Score 1) 280

by Burnhard (#36080104) Attached to: Global Warming To Hinder Wi-Fi Signals, Claims UK Gov't
Firstly, skepticalscience is anything but. It's a shill website, so -1 for referencing it. Secondly, the correlation is almost certainly more complex than the simple-minded one demonstrated there. For example, there's a definite correlation between cosmic rays and stratospheric temperature. Moreover, atmospheric temperature is closely related to sea surface temperature (particularly through El Nino and La Nina), so the correlation is more likely to be something like cosmic rays -> cloud cover -> sea temperature -> atmospheric temperature (the heat capacity of the oceans being 1,000 x greater than that of the atmosphere). As I say, you don't know all of the facts and neither does the propagandist who maintains the skepticalscience website.

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