Debate: Can Consciousness Explain God’s Existence
Channel: Hamza Tzortzis
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Can consciousness be best explained by God’s existence? – Professor Peter Simons and Hamza Tzortzis
Episode Transcript ©
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Before I formally start, I want to just give a little gift as a token of appreciation to Professor assignments because every time we've had engaged, he's been ever so polite, well mannered, and frank and honest, unlike some of my previous debates, which I'm to blame to. And I think, in order to start in a nice way is to give gifts as the Prophet Mohammed upon him VP said, spread love. And the way you do that is by giving gifts. So I have one of my favorite translations of the Quran for PETA. I hope he reads it. So it's Thank you very much.
So let's now formally start in Alhamdulillah, WA Salatu was Salam ala rasulillah, to proceed. Brothers and sisters and friends, I greet you all with the warmest Islamic greetings of peace. Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.
Which basically means, may the peace and blessings of God be upon you all.
Today's topic is can consciousness be best explained by God's existence?
And this topic is a fascinating topic because I don't think there is a right and wrong answer. It's not the kind of debate that you will attend. And you will think the theist one or the atheist one, but rather, I think is a type of discussion that is quite personal. Because consciousness is personal to everybody that in a subjective state, what it is to be like me, and what it is to be like you these are personal matters. So my aim is not to have a debate is really to have a conversation over some nice coffee and tea, to engage with your hearts and minds. And also just to give you my reasons, personal reasons why I think consciousness is best explained by God's
existence. So my argument today is that subjective conscious experience the interstates cannot be explained by materialism or any other complete competing worldview, and that it can only be best explained by theism, in other words, the existence of God. And I would argue humbly, that materialists and reductionists are economic acknowledging the failure of materialism to comprehensively explain in a conscious experiences, for example, Christoph Kok. In his book consciousness, Confessions of a romantic reductionist, he writes, how the brain converts bio electrical activity into subjective states, how photons reflected of water are magically transformed
into the percept of iridescent Aqua marine Mountain Time is a puzzle. Explaining how a highly organized piece of matter can possess an interior perspective has daunted the scientific method.
So consciousness, especially concerning the inner subjective states, what it is to be like Hamza, what it is to be like Professor assignments. This reality has daunted materialism, and reductionism. But as a preliminary note, I want you to understand that science has explained some aspects of consciousness very well. And these include, number one, the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to external external stimuli. Number two, the report ability of mental states. Number three, the ability of a system to access its own internal states. Number four, the focus of attention. Number five, the deliberate control of behavior. Number six, the difference between wakefulness, and
sleep. These are no issue for the scientific method. All of these can be explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms, brothers, sisters and friends. But what I would like to focus on is what Professor David Sharma has coined as the hard problem of consciousness and many other academics actually following suit. And the hard problem of consciousness refers to our phenomenal states, the inner subjective experience what it is
Like to be Hamza. Let me give an example. I like strawberries. And me eating a strawberry is a particular experience for myself. Now from a materialist perspective, you may find some neurochemical happenings that correlate to me eating a strawberry. You may even find out that what I'm eating is nice and sweet. But from this neurochemical activity, you can never, ever find out what it is like to be hunza eating a strawberry. This is the hard problem of consciousness. as Professor Sharma explains, what unites all these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience. If any problem qualifies as the problem of
consciousness, it is this one.
And I would argue brothers, sisters and friends, that the hard problem of consciousness cannot be explained by the materialist, reductionist, verification inist physicalist naturalist paradigm, as Professor Nagel in his book, mind and Cosmos writes, consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science. If we take this problem seriously, and follow out its implications, it threatens to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture. And Professor Sharma puts this into perspective too. He says, even if even if every behavioral and cognitive function related to consciousness were explained, they would still remain a
further mystery. Why is the performance of these functions accompanied by conscious experience? Even if we were to map all the neurochemical happenings in our brains to activity to interstates, we will still never be able to answer the fundamental questions posed by the hard problem of consciousness. So I want to now really break down biological explanations for consciousness and philosophical explanations for consciousness and bring a theistic explanation. Let's start with the biological. Why have biological explanations failed to explain the hard problem of consciousness? Well, they have adopted five parallel strategies. five strategies that haven't worked. Number one, they explain
something else. Researchers simply admit that the problem of experience is too difficult for now. And they can't find the answer. So they just explained something else. Number two, they deny the hard problem of consciousness. And they just say we are just neuro chemical zombies. And I would argue this false for the fallacy, which is called reductio ad absurdum meaning it reduces the implications of what they're saying to absurdity that we're just zombies. Number three,
subjectivity experience is explained by understanding the physical processes in our brain. This is the other parallel strategy that biological explanations have tried to come up with. But this sounds like magic Hocus Pocus, because experience somehow emerges without any explanation. The question, how do these processes give rise to experience is never answered. Number four, the fourth parallel strategy adopted by these biological explanations, which is to explain the structure of experience, but this strategy tells us nothing of why they should be experienced in the first place. Finally, the fifth fallacious and parallel strategy adopted by biological explanations, what they try and do
they isolate the substrate, which basically means the underlying basis or layer of experience. But this strategy does not explain why experience emerges from these processes. And how, let me give you one example to really put this into perspective. Take for instance, Francis Crick's and crystal cos, toward a neurobiological theory of consciousness. Now, what they said was that they looked at certain oscillations in the cerebral cortex, and they claim that these oscillations were the basis of conscious experience because they seem to correlate with awareness, particularly visual awareness. But there are some criticisms to their theory. Number one, why do these oscillations give
rise to subjective experience?
answered. Number two, how but just viewing these neuro biological happenings can we appreciate what that experience is like, again, unanswered. So there are valid criticisms to this theory. Also Christof Koch he openly admits the flaws of the theory he said, well, let's first forget about the real difficult aspects like subjective feel subjective feelings, because they may not have a scientific solution. It is no wonder brothers, sisters and friends that academic Colin McGinn aptly describes the problem of consciousness. He says, How is it possible for conscious states depend upon brain states? How could the aggregation of millions of individually incentive neurons generate
subjective awareness? So Let's now move on to the philosophical explanations for consciousness.
The first explanation is typically called type A materialism or mechanistic materialism, and that this approach assumes materialism is true matter is the basis for everything, which I believe is a false assumption. And what they argue is that the brain is made up of neurons undergoing physical and chemical changes and processes, therefore explaining these things would explain consciousness. So therefore, in a subjective experience is merely an illusion. It's just an illusion. So they deny the hard problem of consciousness. I would argue this is not an adequate explanation of consciousness as it just redefines consciousness, and ignores what requires explaining, which is
that we do have inner subjective experiences. Also type in materialism, he also shares his fundamental conclusions with the modern functionalism and behaviorism. Now functionalism essentially describes mental states by what they do, rather than what they feel. So again, they ignore the hard problem of consciousness. behaviorism describes our conscious states by our behaviors are what can be verified physically, again, a very crude counter argument to this is, we'll look at actors, they can show that they're in pain, but it doesn't mean that they are actually in pain. So the verifiable physical output doesn't correlate with the inside with the input.
Let's look at type B materialism. Now type B materialism basically says there is an epistemic gap between physical and phenomenal domains meaning the inner experience, an epistemic gap basically means a gap of knowledge.
Now, they say that this gap can be explained with a materialistic philosophy, because there is somehow some kind of causal link between the physical and the inner experience. But I would argue this is not an adequate explanation for consciousness because one assumes materialism to be true without justification. And it also implies that consciousness is distinct, because if there is an epistemic gap, it means the physical states are distinct, and the subjective mental states also distinct. And therefore there must be a fundamental law that connects these distinct properties, because what fundamental rules do they connect distinct properties? So if consciousness is distinct
from matter, therefore, it can't come from matter.
Let's look at now type C, materialism. Type C. materialism basically says there is a deep epistemic gap, a gap of knowledge between physical states and interstates phenomenal states. And they basically say that gap will be closed when we improve our scientific knowledge.
But for me, brothers and sisters and friends, this is like God of the gaps. It's the science of the gaps. The door swings both ways people. We don't know how the universe works. God did it. We don't know about consciousness. It doesn't correlate to material happenings in the brain. Therefore science will somehow in the future, explain it. This is the science of the gaps fallacy. And as I've explained before, that the scientific method is limited in its approach, because it can't address this reality. Just like a can't address, for instance, more realities. Science, by its nature is amoral. It doesn't mean scientists are immoral By the way, it just means. It can't really give you
the ontology of morality, the underlying basis for morality, its source and nature.
So it's no wonder neurophysiologist jc Eccles, he said, I maintain that the human mysteries incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism.
However, they have been non materialist explanations take
type T dualism or interaction is dualism as an example, which we know also refers to Cartesian dualism, which basically says consciousness and the brain are radically different, yet somehow interactive. So, in a conscious states cause physical states and physical states cause in a conscious states, this has criticism also, because you have what is called the interaction is problem, how do physical things interact with non physical things?
It creates another question that requires answering. So, let's move on to type e dualism, also known as and it's a tricky word for me, epi phenomenalism,
which basically says that yes, brain states and interstates phenomenal states, subjective states are different, but physical states cause the interstates but not the other way around. So listen to this.
It basically says that physical states cause subjective experience, but not the other way around physical states cause interstates but not the other way around. And a very interesting contention to this is a sensation of pain in my hand, due to a hot flame plays no causal role in moving me moving my hand away. I like boxing, right. So I'm boxing as someone throws a massive overhand right out of fear, I duck. But according to this view, I don't duck out of fear. I ducked by some random accident, I forgot more every time I burned my hand and I feel pain, I move it just by accident, not because I actually felt pain.
Let's take the last one type f monism, or what's called
Pan psychism, which basically states all material physical systems contain a form of subjective consciousness. As if consciousness is a fundamental law of the universe as well that in some
objects or physical things, there is an intrinsic property code consciousness. Now, I don't think this is an adequate explanation, because how to rule pieces of matter contain consciousness. And it also assumes that consciousness is everywhere. And that cannot be possible because there is no such thing as a conscious being possessed by anything than a unified self, or unified AI. What does it mean to have a thought, without a thinker?
And how could these random chunks of matter
come together and aggregate to form a unified consciousness? So since we do experience a unified conscious experience, then it would be untenable to assert that it's a product of individually conscious objects? How can brothers sisters and friends, the accumulation of individual conscious objects manage to create an add up to a meaningful unified experience?
Before I go to the theistic argument, I want to make a note on near death experiences. I know this is quite spooky. I used to like the Ghostbusters I used to be Ghostbusters gang when I was a child. I was Egon Spangler. You know the crazy guy with the big head. He was the smart one.
Know that I'm smart. Of course. I used to love Ghostbusters, but it's got nothing to do with Ghostbusters stuff. This is now academia go to the lunch set. Everyone's heard of this medical journal peer reviewed. They talk about near death experiences. And you have the Handbook of near death experiences. And it concerns eyewitness reports and verified reports of people being comatose. Having no blood to the brain, no brain activity, the eyes are closed, but yet, they actually talk about what happened in another room while they were in their bed almost dead. They heard what was happening they can see themselves from above. And these have been verified from an academic
perspective. So it shows that a unified conscious experience is not directly linked to biological activity.
Now if you go to, for example, the Handbook of near death experience you see that they state the following In a recent interview of 93 reports of potential potentially verifiable out of body perceptions during near death experience. It has been found that 43% had been corroborated to the investigator by an independent informant. And there are many amazing case studies for you to research for yourself. And the reason I brought this into question is because now academia is taking out of body experiences and near death experiences quite seriously in peer reviewed journals that it's a phenomenon. And if we want to understand the brain and the mind or the brain and
consciousness, the best way to do that is actually looking for nonmetals
realistic explanations now because we can't explain the phenomenon of near death experiences.
So why is theism or God? The best explanation?
I have five points why theism best explains consciousness. Number one, it explains where consciousness came from. as Professor JP Moreland, he explains, our knowledge of the natural world will give us positive reasons for not believing that irreducible consciousness would appear in it. For example, the geometric arrangement of inner physical entities in two different spatial structures hardly seem sufficient to explain the appearance of consciousness. So therefore, a theistic view is far more plausible because there is a being that's all aware, and for it to bring into existence, awareness of consciousness logically follows. Number two, theism explains how
consciousness entered the physical world, as Professor Charles Taliaferro explains, but in a theistic view of consciousness, there is no parlor trick or discrete, miraculous act of God behind the emergence of consciousness. Consciousness emerges from the physical Cosmos through an abiding comprehensive will of God, that there'd be a world of physical and non physical objects, properties and relations, the relation between matter, energy consciousness, the laws of space time, all stem from an overwhelming divine activity. Number three, theism has a greater explanatory power. as Professor Taliaferro, similarly concludes, from the vantage point of a fundamentally materialist
cosmology, the emergence of consciousness seems strange, it is likened to claim that a miracle happens. But from the vantage point of theism, the emergence of consciousness may be seen as something deeply rooted in the very nature of reality. The creation of animal and human consciousness is not some isolated miracle, but a reflection of the underlying structure of reality. Number four, theism explains the interaction between the physical and the non physical, which was the problem of Cartesian dualism, God's will for example, and power has enabled such interaction to take place, as this interaction is part and parcel of the reality that God had created. Similarly,
if in the beginning of the cosmos, all you had is matter, then you wouldn't get mind. However, if in the beginning, you had mind or consciousness or all aware being, then it follows if you created matter, you can also have consciousness and awareness to finally number five, theism explains the ability for us to have inner subjective conscious experiences because
a theistic God a monotheistic God is all aware,
has a will has volition in Islamic thought is called irata. a will. And since this eternal being that has a will and is aware and has an era that created the entire cosmos, then it follows that we have been given this capacity also to be aware.
So let me summarize my argument. Number one, subjective conscious experiences can be best can be best explained via materialist, theist, or other competing worldview. Number two, subjective conscious experiences cannot be explained via materialist or other competing worldviews. Number three, therefore, subjective conscious experiences is best explained by theism. It is no wonder the famous poet of the East a cabal, he said, For centuries, Eastern heart and intellect have been absorbed in the question, Does God Exist? I propose to raise a new question new, that is to say for the east.
Does man exist? Because I believe if you reject God, you've rejected yourself. The very fact that you have inner, subjective conscious experiences. And finally, it is no wonder that Ned block a researcher says, We have nothing Zilch worthy of being called a research program. Researchers are stumped so brothers and sisters and friends is a complex topic I tried to address most of the competing worldviews you may not have understood this fully, but the point is to plant seeds in your mind to think about this, because isn't it far more better thinking about consciousness and these topics than for example? I don't know.
We need to elevate our understanding as human beings and hopefully both of us today can achieve that in some way. God bless you.
Thank you. Good evening, everybody, Salam Alaikum. And it's peace be unto you. And it's very nice to be back here after the last time was I think three years ago. I remember it very clearly, because my wife was here, it was her birthday, and she was sitting over there, trying not to take any notice.
Thank you to Karen for the invitation. Thank you for having me. Thank you to Hamza for his usual very well informed, entertaining and eloquent putting of the case, for the best explanation of consciousness being the existence of God, I am going to put the opposite case, or at least I am if I can find my crib notes, which are here. And I just to summarize my conclusion before I get there, I'm going to say, no, that's not the best explanation.
Consciousness is a natural phenomenon. And if it is a natural phenomenon, it should have a natural explanation. However,
the question is a very interesting and very well chosen one, because as Hamza pointed out that scientists and philosophers, or at least those whose heads are not buried deep in their own research programs, and are puzzled,
noted, authorities such as Daniel Dennett, say, human consciousness is a great mystery. In fact, he thinks it's one of the last great mysteries, the famous Australian philosopher David Chalmers, who incidentally is going to come in and speak at Trinity College at the beginning of May. In the dunellen lectures, David Chalmers says the problem of consciousness is the hard problem. And it leads seem to have a philosophical view, which is dualistic.
So this is a very nicely balanced
debate. In fact, there were very few things that I could disagree with him what Hamza said, up until the last five minutes. That is to say his critique of over hasty attempts to explain consciousness by scientists and philosophers are, I think, all correct. In fact, he went through types A through F, of philosophical explanations. And I could put my hand on my heart or close to it and say, I'm not type A or type B, etc, through type F. So I'm actually type G, and I'll explain what type G is later on.
Now, the question has three important keywords in the title God explained, and consciousness. One of those concepts is relatively unproblematic. You might not expect me to say this as a philosopher, but in fact, it's the concept of God, by God, I understand the concept of an all powerful, divine loving, creative, caring,
intelligence as an one of a kind, as postulated in all the three great monotheistic Abrahamic religions. So I'm agreeing on what the notion of God is. And then the question is, is this notion of God going to give us the best explanation for the phenomenon of consciousness?
Let me say a little bit about explaining and consciousness what is explaining.
There is a whole branch of philosophy called the philosophy of science, which is dedicated to telling you what scientific explanation is, a lot of their explanations are good, a lot of them are not good. I'm going to give a very simple account of what explaining consists in which any theory has to accommodate to, and which tells us basically what it is to be a good explanation. An explanation is an answer to the question or to a question of the form. Why? In fact, Hamza said it says, Why are things like this? Why does lightning proceed Sunday? Why do I get a hangover when I've drunk too much wine the night before?
explanations tell you why. And a good explanation does that in two ways. It reveals a phenomenon as an instance of a more general case or a more general kind and in terms of which we can understand
And in terms of things we already understand quite well.
So for Well, I'll give you an example in a minute. That's one aspect. So explanation reveals or discloses a phenomenon as something which is of a kind with things we already understand, perhaps not perfectly, in fact, almost certainly not perfectly, but better than the thing to be explained. Secondly,
and this is really important. A, an explanation of good explanation tells us about the mechanism whereby this kind of phenomenon occurs, it tells us how it works. And again, it tells us in terms which are in some way or other familiar, give you two examples of explanations. They're both scientific explanations. One is good, and one is bad. And I'll only sketch them because it's more complicated and we have time for the first is the scientific explanation of thunder and lightning, thunder and lightning was originally said by Aristotle. Well, certainly thunder, I don't know about what he said about lightning. But the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, Thunder is caused by clouds
colliding in the sky. And when I was a small child, I actually thought that was true. Now, whether I tilted up for myself, or had somehow got hold of Aristotle when I was about six, I think it's more likely that somebody had told me that that's what it was my mom or something like that. But I thought it sounded quite plausible. If clouds are a long way up, and they're big and they hit each other, there's a big bang.
But we now know that that explanation is no good. In fact, we now have a fairly good explanation of what lightning consists in or how it arises, it arises because of friction due to convection currents in the air, especially in hot and stormy weather, which creates charged particles in the atmosphere which are of opposite charge to particles in other parts of the air, and which are in opposite charged to the ground. As a result, you get a potential difference, this potential difference can be of the order of hundreds of 1000s of volts, the air is not a good conductor, electrical conductor. And as a result, it resists the passage of current or the equalization of
potential differences. up to a certain point beyond that point,
the air breaks down from its normal stated ionizes. And current passes huge amounts of energy pass very quickly in the order of 50 microseconds from one part of the world to another, sometimes from cloud to cloud, sometimes within a cloud, sometimes from cloud to ground. When that happens when that charge jumps through the atmosphere through the ionization of air. The resulting plasma, which is an extremely hot form of matter, expands so rapidly, that it creates a shockwave it expands at super sonic speed, and that creates a shock wave like the passage of a supersonic aircraft. And it is that shock wave which agitates the molecules of the air and which we hear as the crack or bang of
thunder. So that's a successful explanation. Not all details are known, there are lots of things to be found out. One of the difficulties is, it's not a very safe place to be in the middle of a thunderstorm with lightning crackling all around you to investigate it. The first person who did find out that lightning is associated with electricity was a very brave man, Benjamin Franklin, who flew a kite in a storm with a key attached to it, and got electric shocks from the key, he was lucky to be alive.
Let me give you an example of an unsuccessful but very, very long running, explanation in science and it's one with which you may or may not be familiar, but it might be interesting to you as medics that it was a medical type explanation. An explanation for the different temperaments are characters of people, and an explanation for the reasons why people succumb to various kinds of illnesses. And this was an explanation which flourished in ancient Greek times. It flourished throughout the long history of the Middle Ages, through Arabic medicine, and medieval European medicine, right up until the 19th century. And this is the theory of the four humors and the four temperaments. The four
humors are four liquids present in the human body, phlegm, bile, black bile, and blood. And those were associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. And it was thought that different imbalances of these humans gave rise to illnesses on the one hand,
also gave rise to differences in temperament. For instance, somebody who had an excess of bile or cola was choleric, or hot tempered, quick to get angry. Somebody who had an excess of phlegm was easygoing. They were phlegmatic. In fact, we use words like phlegmatic, sanguine, which means you've got lots of blood, choleric, and if you have an excess of black bile, melancholia, then you are melancholy or prone to depression. Those that was a very well believed in very worked out scientific theory. The only problem with it is it's totally wrong. The the it's not the imbalance of fluids that causes things like cancer, or Huntington's disease, or all sorts of other things. There are
other causes for that which we now know much more about. Also, the differences in temperament between different people are not caused by imbalances of the humors or fluids in
angry people are not angry because of an excess of bile, they are angry for other reasons. Now, I mentioned this explanation. For one reason,
there was a straightforward but false explanation as to why angry people were angry, they had an excess of bile over the others humors in them. We do not now have a unified explanation of why some people are angry and other people are less angry or prone to anger.
In such simplistic terms, in fact, I don't know if there is a theory of anger out there anymore amongst psychiatrists or psychologists. Now, what that shows is that in certain cases, scientific advance results in the deposition or removal of a theory, which tried to explain that phenomenon, without it being replaced by a better theory, mainly because the problem seems to just get more complicated or disappear. Let me come on to the next question. What is consciousness? Well, it can means various things. It can mean the difference between being awake and being asleep. It can mean thinking it can mean being self aware, but I'm going to use it for what Hamza following David
Chalmers calls experience or phenomenon, phenomenon, phenomenology, what it's like to be me what it's like to be you what it's like to be as Thomas Nagel what rose once wrote about what it's like to be a zombie. While there isn't such a thing as what it's like to be a zombie. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of my colleagues, in fact, are zombies. But I can say that here and not in Trinity College.
There are two aspects to consciousness in the mind. One is intentionality that is that we are able to think about cognize objects in the outside world. We don't just have cognitive attitudes to them. We also have emotional and volunteer ative attitudes, we want to do things we get upset about things we like things and so on. hams are like strawberries, so do I.
So we both have comparable likes in that regard. And,
but those present objects in the outside world, they have what the philosophers call intentionality, they are objects, they're about objects. That is an interesting an important aspect of what it is like to be mental. But the one that really concerns us, and it concerns both of us here is what I call phenomenology, the idea that there is something that it's like to be a conscious being there is, if you like a view from the inside, that's not a brilliant way of talking about it, but it is what it's like. For us, there is a difference between being a stone and being a human being stones don't think they don't have experiences, they don't have plans, hopes and fears. They don't worry
about being crushed. Whereas we worry about falling under a boss. So there is no such thing as what it's like to be a stone. But there is such a thing as what it's like to be a normal, healthy adult living human being. Because from time to time, we are awake, and we're taking in what's in our surroundings. And that has this subjective or picture or inner theater aspect to it, which is what I mean by phenomenon ality. And
that is the aspect of consciousness that David Chalmers calls the hard problem. That's the bit that science seems not to have got round to explaining adequately. Now, I am not going to contest in fact, the claim that science has not got round to explaining it adequately. The reason is, I think science has not got round to explaining adequately
what would a natural explanation of cost
Consciousness look like? Well, first of all, it would have to give a mechanism as to how it works. There is some progress on that, perhaps. But a lot of the time, what scientists have been doing is as Hamza pointed out, they have been looking at more easy problems, more tractable problems, problems is easier to deal with, with the tools and knowledge that they have. The consciousness problem stumps them, and so they push it on one side and say, let's get on with what we can do. And then they come back and say, Oh, well, we're working on consciousness, but actually what they're doing is they're working on things that they hope will help them to work on consciousness down the
line. So I'm not going to dispute with that.
It is not clear therefore that neurophysiological investigations to date, have really started tackling the problem of phenomenology and consciousness. Now, it may be because this is a problem that is too difficult for us to work on. Maybe the human organism is not sufficiently complicated to understand the complications of the human organism, which is an option that I wouldn't rule out at all, the most complicated object in the known universe is the human brain.
Try and use that with all its faults, to understand the human brain and you might just come up short by an order of magnitude. Another reason is we've not been going at it very long brains research has been going since about the mid 19th century, and we have only recently acquired decent tools, scanners and the like, to help us look inside the brain without doing things like killing people and slicing their brains and seeing what they look like. It's pretty hard to see what's going on in someone's brain if you have to kill them and slice their brain into thin slices to do so. They tend not to survive the experience experiment.
But even so, a lot of the claims that you see about what's going on in people's brains, when they do an MRI scan
are exaggerated. These are scientists getting excited about finding new things, they see parts of the brain lighting up and they say oh this shows that this is where consciousness is or they This shows that this person is actually in a coma, but they are thinking about playing tennis.
So, they get they get overexcited as you would do if you're on the cutting edge of science. So, I will agree then science has not made not got very far if far at all, in explaining why there is phenomenon ality now the other aspect to what it should do is it should explain how phenomenon ality if you're doing a natural explanation, we are organisms, I claim consciousness is a natural phenomenon, if it is a natural phenomenon, how did it evolve
an impact Why did it evolve? Why is the consciousness Why can we not get by without being zombies? And again, I think that the theory of evolution has come up short, there is a lot of hand waving, and there is a lot of theory. In fact, there are a lot of theories, this book here, which is so heavy, I can hardly hold it is the Blackwell companion to consciousness, I holding it up not because I claim to have read it, but because I claim not to have read most of it, because there are so many different theories there that I come out more confused than I was before.
So, it I think that the progress on the evolution of consciousness is if not non existent, very pitiful. So I will agree then that science has not given us a satisfactory natural explanation of phenomena ality today. So the question is, as Vladimir Lenin once said, What is to be done?
Well, there are two things you can choose one of two paths. One path is to say, it's never going to be solved by scientific natural means. Therefore, we must look for another an explanation. And that's when you invoke God as Hamza did in his final part.
You look for what I call a supernatural explanation, because it goes beyond what is in the natural world of space, time and causation. The alternative, which is the one I propose is the way to go, is
keep working. It may not be next week, it may not be next year, it may not be the next 500 years. But if we keep working, there is a reasonable chance that we'll get closer to an account of what phenomenology consists in how it arises, and what purpose it might serve in evolutionary terms. Now, it's not guaranteed to serve an evolutionary purpose, or it might serve a purpose now, but have arisen for completely irrelevant reasons. There are lots of cases in the evolution of organisms, where organs and processes have come
About for one reason, and then they've stopped functioning in that way and have been co opted for other things. A good example being
the jaw, the jaw was not originally for chewing things with and biting, it was originally a thing to hang gills on in certain kinds of fish, the inner ear about which you all know much more than I do consists of several very, very beautiful and delicately balanced bones connected together, those bones were not there for hearing originally, they were part of the jaws of fish, and reptiles, and only gradually in mammals did they migrate up and become the very, very delicate mechanism mediating between the inner ear and the nerves that go into the brain. So parts of an organism can be co opted for other purposes later on, bat wings, or just arms with fat with with skinny bits in between them.
Bird wings are arms with feathers on them.
legs, and arms are just fins that have grown strong enough to support us on land, and so forth.
sometimes, something might have arisen for irrelevant reasons and have been co opted later on. Now, I have no idea whether consciousness is in that bracket or not. It might be it might not be. I'm being extremely candid, modest, and disarming by saying, I don't know. And I think good scientists, and a lot of them do should also say, I don't know.
So if there isn't a good, natural explanation,
should we keep pushing? The answer is yes. After all, if eventually there is a good natural explanation, that would be better than a supernatural explanation, because it would integrate the account of consciousness into the account of the rest of the physical cosmos. Okay. So you wouldn't need to postulate supernatural causes or supernatural agencies to explain what I think is a natural and very widespread phenomenon. Two minutes.
Okay. All right. And how long have I got? formulas? Thank you. That's good.
So science may get there. In the end, it might not for various reasons, it might be beyond us.
More likely, we will kill ourselves in the meantime, and not be replaced by anything more intelligent.
Or we might just get unlucky and a big comet will strike the planet who knows what will happen? We don't know. So I would just simply counsel, patience. If you're a natural scientist, you have to get used to the idea that you can't do everything overnight. And not just because of lack of funding from the Irish Research Council.
Although that doesn't help the said pleadingly. But because some problems are very big. Sometimes you need to walk before you can run.
So why is the explanation in terms of God's existence? Not a good explanation? First point, and I'm glad Hamza brought this up. In some, in some places, you invoke God because you haven't got any other explanation that's called the God of the gaps way of using God. There are lots of reasons why that's bad. One is that as science explains more, it means that the job for God gets narrower, which is very demeaning. Secondly, I would expect God to be able to explain things that are explained by physical science as well as things that aren't explained by physical science. After all, why is God just there to cover up the bits that we don't know about? So that would be another aspect of being
demeaning. The third thing is, I'm very glad he brought this up. Scientists are guilty of the same fallacy when they say, Oh, it's sure to be solved down the line. That is science of the gaps. We haven't got there yet. But don't worry, just give us lots of funding. And we'll get it within 50 years, or within 10 years, or however ambitious you are. I think we've been thinking about the mind for three 4000 years. We're not there yet. Well, it's just started, give us another 500. Maybe we'll never get there. Don't be impatient.
The other reason, however, another reason why it's not good to invoke God is that God can be used to explain all sorts of things, whatever happens to be out there. Why
should it be consciousness? Why should it not? If there were zombies? Wouldn't that be better? Wouldn't God be there to explain why there is zombies of no consciousness?
And the other thing is, well, I don't want to complain, but God could have done a better job.
I'm a mammal.
In mammals, the retinal nerve is in front of the rods and cones that receive light. Therefore I have a blind spot, which is where the optic nerve goes through and seconds
The light reception is not as good if I were a bird, the is the right way around the cut rods and cones are there on the nerves are behind.
Birds also have better lungs than I do, because they have a throughput system where I have a Breathe in and breathe out system, which is relatively less efficient. birds can see with four color receptors that a tetra chromatic I can only see in three. There are lots of things that are wrong with being a human flat faces, too many teeth, bad sinuses pharynx this ectopic pregnancies, ladies appendices. hernia is where your testes came through gentlemen. And ladies Think hard. The birth canal goes right through the middle of your pelvis. And that's why some women die in childbirth. There are lots of design faults in human beings.
If I were asking for a remake, I would ask first of all for a couple of extra hands.
Secondly, I would ask for better vision better hearing I could hear more I could appreciate bark better.
I would like probably four legs and maybe wheels and better lungs, as well as a better memory.
Longer attention span quicker information processing time. And could I live for 200 years please. So there was a lots of things where I think if God is an explanation of consciousness, why didn't he give us a better version of it? Finally, I've admitted that there isn't an adequate natural explanation for God for for God, there isn't one. There isn't an adequate natural explanation for consciousness. There is an explanation for consciousness according to Hamza, because Hamza says God is an intelligent, aware being and has created us in that image, which is a very orthodox and traditional view.
In those cases, however, like in the case of the temperaments, where there has been an explanation in the past, which is not a good natural explanation.
It is sometimes better to be without a good explanation than to be saddled with a bad explanation. So for that reason, I consider that it is not the best explanation of consciousness to invoke God, even though sorry, I don't have an alternative. Thank you.
This middle area ramen Rahim, Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. I think the professor I really like coming here and discussing with the professor because I learned so much. And I really want this to be like almost like a public announcement if you'd like that, my future engagements with naturalist materialist, whatever you want to call them. Forget the categories unhelpful. They're going to be like this gifts, dialog, nuisance, because I think previously, you know, especially if you were to see my discussion with Professor Lawrence Krauss, it was a bit of a train wreck, maybe on both sides. And I think we need to really transcend the kind of aggressiveness
from the theists and the aggressiveness of the new atheists like Richard Dawkins. I don't know if everyone agrees with me, but even many atheists agree with me like Professor microbrews. He actually calls Richard Dawkins stupid.
And they have a big debate amongst themselves, I think we should transcend or have that as really be human. I think today makes me happy because we can actually have that discussion, as if when an Athenian court discussing about man life in the universe, and I really applaud the debating society. And actually, Let's applaud them.
And obviously, my fellow brothers and sisters in niceic, right, so just some final remarks. See, consciousness is puzzling. There is no ultimate answer. We haven't really
put a flag down and said, right, this is the answer. This is the explanation, but I have some things just to address. First, I'm really happy that the professor said I did a good job in explaining away the current materialistic and dualist theories. That means I've done my homework and reading which I'm quite happy about. Yeah.
The other thing I want to address is maybe we we were thinking that there must be a naturalistic materialistic expressed explanation here. I think we're presuming naturalism to be true, because it works in everything else. Therefore, it must work for consciousness as well. And I would not highly disagree with anything. Professor said, Yes. In a scientific explanation, scientific explanation, you require certain things. We totally agree with that especially as Muslims, we believe the natural world is how God does things. For example, in classical theology in Islam,
God has created a spab causes within universe in order for us to understand and actually comprehend the universe. So, a natural scientific explanation is God's explanation. This is what Islam says. That's why Islam, in the Quran rather, God says, Look into the interconnecting principles of nature. So we totally agree with this. But my contention is, is that by studying the scientific method, and by understanding what is going on in the brain, even in a limited way, it can never it's D scoped, we can never understand the inner subconscious states because from the perspective of looking at neuro chemical happenings that could never translate the jump is way too big. It can never translate
into some form of, I now know what it is like to be Professor assignments. So the point here, this is a signpost is an indicator that you know what, we must start looking at non naturalistic explanations. And I don't think there's any problem with that at all, because we've done that for many other things. Because we understand, for instance, that science as a method, and tourism can't really deal with, for example, logically necessary truth. That's a different realm of, of philosophy, if you like, when we look at morality, we know that science generally speaking can inform our morality, but cannot provide a basis for it. So we see that in many areas of, of learning
and knowledge, we realize that materialism and naturalism just is the sculpt from that perspective. And consciousness is another one of those things. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. So if this science does come to us and say, Well, this how things work? Well, if you remember, when we quoted Professor Chalmers, when he said, at the end of the day, even if we were to know everything about the brain, it would not follow that we know what it is like to be that person with a brain with these mental internal states. This is not a question of science. It's a question of metaphysics. It's a question of, can we have a comprehensive explanation for the why we don't
disagree with the how bring on the science, like from a design perspective, we love science, right? If you study the history of science, you see how Muslims loved science.
So from this perspective, brothers and friends is not necessarily dealing with the how but more questioning the wind, let me give you a car analogy. We know how the car works, PUC a spark plugs and whatever, right. But
the hell doesn't really tell us the why the reason it works, why it works is because someone designed it that way. So I think the whole best explanation is a bit of a red herring because it assumes materialism to be true, or naturalism to be true. And it's it's misapplying. What we're trying to say here, we're saying that the method is de scoped. empiricism, science can't really tell us in a conscious state, by the very nature of the methodology and the theory of knowledge could empiricism. On a final note, I just want to explain that.
God from a metaphysical explanation and a why explanation is a fantastic explanation, as I discussed, but just want to address some of the design faults the professor was talking about. Well, if you are a naturalist and a scientist, and you have empiricism as your worldview, you can never claim that they're actually faults because even you know that maybe in the future science will tell us why we have them in the first place. And maybe science will tell you why you have an appendix. And maybe science may tell you that you have why you have wisdom teeth, or why you had a jaw, you have to be open for future conclusions, because science is based on induction, which is taking
limited observations and concluding for the next or the entire set of observations. So you can never say is a design full by the very nature of the scientific method or the way you conclude scientifically because you don't have an infinite number of observations. And the other point I'd like to make is, it's fit for purpose. you're meant to live into about 70 or 80, and then meet your load. If it were to be perfect, then what's the point of paradise?
So thanks again. And I applaud the openness that Hamza is pushing. It's my own view. Also, I think, as people trying to understand the world, it is very good to keep an open mind not so open, as the head of Johns Hopkins University once said that our brains fall out, but open enough to accept that at any stage along the way, we might be wrong. And that we may have to revise our opinions and I am one of those who thinks you can revise your opinions on opinions on anything. One of the things on which I did not speak but which I will briefly respond to
is the issue of near death or an out of body experiences. This, if if this were,
let's say if this were such that you couldn't give an adequate naturalistic explanation for those phenomena, then I would reluctantly but modestly conclude that naturalism is an account of what goes on in people has its limitations, and that there is more to it than that. I do have a colleague incidentally in Trinity College who seriously believes in in near death experiences as revolutionary of the fact that we have a soul and are not just physical organisms. So I you know, I'm aware of this, I personally just don't know enough about it. So I'll have to get that Handbook, and clog my shelves up even more with books, I don't have time to read
my own view. And I will mention this I said I was a type g naturalist. And that's not on not been mentioned. so far. My own view is actually derives from that of an early modern philosopher, a Jewish philosopher called Baruch Spinoza, or Benedictus de Spinoza, depending on whether you gave him his Hebrew name or his
Latin name. Incidentally, his views did not endear him to the Jewish community in Amsterdam, where he lived. They booted him out, they excommunicated him. And he made his living by grinding lenses.
He refused to take a job which would restrict his freedom of thought. As a result, he suffered considerably from the glass that got into his lungs, and his eyes, a very, very courageous man,
Baruch Spinoza, held the view, I mean, there's a lot about spinosus metaphysics that I disagree with. But the one thing I do agree with is that the mind and the body, or consciousness and brain processes are two aspects of one and the same thing. Now what do I mean by that? First of all, there is only one set of phenomena going on, there are brain processes, and there are conscious processes. Some of the conscious processes are brain process, some of the brain processes, sorry, all the conscious processes of brain processes, not vice versa, there are things going on the brain which don't affect consciousness. Secondly, the difference between them is and why there is such a thing
as what it is like to be me is that when we do brain science, and when we look in scanners, and when we look through when we do instrumental investigations of how the brain works, we do it from the outside, we do it looking through the benefit of our conscious experience, to what's going on in either other people, or if we can do it subtly enough. In ourselves, I had a teacher in Manchester, where I was a graduate student, who told me about how he had his brain operated on why he while he was conscious, because he'd had a motorcycle accident, and there were bits of the road in his brain. And knowing that those parts of the brain did not have any pain nerves in them, he arranged for
there to be a mirror so that he could correlate what the guys were doing when they were probing around in the gray stuff, and what was going on in his experience. And he did say, Well, you know, when they probe here, I saw flashes of light, and so on.
So, the difference is the reason that having a bunch of neurons and other cells interacting in a certain way, consciousness is a process, it isn't a thing. It's a process that goes on in certain kinds of organisms that emerges in the course of evolution, we know not how it's probably fairly endemic among animals. And when that's going on, there are two things if you look at it from the outside, you can't understand that there's anything in all this stuff you can see, hear smell, and whatever that would be what it's like to be it. The reason that you can't is that you're not being it, you've got to actually be inside for there to be what it's like to be. That's why there might be
such a thing as what it's like to be a cat. But there isn't such a thing as what it's like to be a stone and I agree with Hamza, that pan psychism, which is the view that the whole of nature is mental is a silly doctrine. That's my philosophical worst attribute. It's silly.
It's It's ridiculous. To think that an egg an electron could have existential angst is ridiculous. Now, that's not to say that great philosophers haven't held it in the 17th and 18th century, lightness who knew Spinoza who was was influenced by him was a pan psychist he thought the whole of nature was mental. And also in the 20th century, my fellow countrymen, Alfred North Whitehead, one of the great metaphysicians of the 20th
entry and a good mathematician was also Pam psychist. And I say to him, Alfie, why did you do that? So, I think that you can, I don't think you can explain it. What it is to be like but I think you can account for the difference between looking in from the outside and sitting there on the inside. And that when certain things are going on which other people can see from the outside, what they are looking at is what is going on inside me when I am being me.