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?
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.
Dead? No excuse for laying off work.