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34799Y136 Anotherwaytodismissmind&consciousness...


IS TO DENY
THEIR RELEVANCE
RATHER THAN THEIR
EXISTENCE.
Some scientists -
such as Daniel Dennett & Stanislas Dehaene -
argue that all relevant questions can be answered by studying brain activities,
without any recourse to subjective experiences. So scientists can safely delete 'mìnd', 'consciousness' &
'subjective experiences' from their vocabulary & articles. However, as we shall see in the following entries,
the whole edifice of modern politics & ethics is built upon subjective experiences, & few ethical
dilemmas can be solved by referring strictly TO brain activities. For example,
what ÌS wrong with torture
and rape?
From a
purely neurological perspective,
when a human is tortured or raped certain biochemical reactions happen in a
brain, and various electrical signals move from one bunch of neurons to another. What could possibly
be wrong with that? Most modern people have ethical qualms
about torture & rape because of the
subjective experiences
involved!
If
any scientist
wants to argue
that subjective experiences are
irrelevant, their challenge is to explain
WHY torture or rape are wrong without reference
to any subjective experience! Finally, some scientists concede
that consciousness is real & may be actually have great moral and
political value, but that it fulfills no
biological function
whatsoever?
Consciousness is the biologically
useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly,
but the noise doesn't propel the aeroplane forward! Humans don't need carbon dioxide, but each and
every breath fills the air with more of the stuff! Similarly, consciousness may also be a kind of mental pollution
produced by the firing of complex neural networks? It doesn't DÓ anything: it ìs jùst there!
If this is true, it implies that all the pain & pleasure experienced by billions of creatures
for millions of years ÌS just mental pollution. This is certainly
a thought worth thinking, even if it isn't true.
But it is quite amazing to realize that as
of 'now & here', this is still the best
theory of consciousness that
contemporary science has
to offer
us...