Consciousness, Biology and Fundamental Physics
WHAT THIS SITE PROVIDES
The objective of the quantum-mind site is to keep users apprised of developments that are relevant to the concept of consciousness as a fundamental property. It is considered there may be a need for this as a counter balance to the often unreasoning and aggressive rejection of the proposition by the academic establishment and its popularisers. We attempt to summarise and review books, papers, articles and other material from physics, biology, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy where it appears to have a bearing on the idea of consciousness as a fundamental. Much modern material points in this direction, but it is unusual to find any admission of this in mainstream publications however relevant they may appear to the idea. This is particularly true in relation to recent progress in neuroscience and parts of biology.
BLOG: Most of the site is organised in the form of a blog to which new material is being continously added. The blog is subdivided into a number of categories, as listed below:-
NEUROSCIENCE and EMOTIONS: This category is attracting the most material at the moment. Neuroscience is undergiong rapid advances due to new scanning methods, but surprisingly little of this material is finding its way into mainstream or even fringe consciousness studies. Emotion which covers evaluation of sensory inputs, preferences for both stimuli and behaviour and feelings is emphasised as an area that may lead to an understanding of consciousness. Of particular interest in recent years have been studies that may narrow the search for consciousness onto intensive activity in very limited areas of the brain, although this activity may be supported by widespread synchronous oscillations.
FREEWILL: This category could nowadays be discussed as an adjunct of Neuroscience and Emotions. It might also be better described as ‘conscious will’. The adjective ‘free’ raises the philosophical question of whether anything in the physical universe could be altogether free of some form of constraint. What the material is more concerned with is to what extent conscious will has some degree of impact on actions and behaviour. The category includes recent scientific material that demonstrates that claims of the non-existence of freewill based on the famous Libet experiments are invalid.
QUANTUM BIOLOGY: This category refers to evidence for the functional effects of quantum coherence and quantum entanglement in organic matter, primarily photosynthetic systems. In the 1990s proposals that consciousness could be related to fundamental physics were met by a wave of aggression and ridicule. Almost the only element in this that had some scientific substance was the claim that quantum features in the brain would decohere too rapidly to be functional in neural processing. This category emphasises recent research which has demonstrated the functional effects of quantum coherence in organic systems even at room temperature. There are signs that the biology establishment is not keen for the possible connection to consciousness to become widely appreciated.
PHYSICS and COSMOLOGY: This category deals with any aspect of physics that appears relevant to consciousness as a fundamental physical property.
COMPUTING: This category covers computing and its extension into quantum computing, artificial intelligence and robotics. In particular, it emphasises material which contests the claim that upgraded classical computers will achieve consciousness. For instance, neuroscience has increasingly demonstrated that conscious processing has no role in reflex or spontaneous movements, but this discovery is seldom discussed in the parts of consciousness studies that overlap with computing.
Other categories include philosophy and the origin of life where articles in these areas that appear relevant to consciousnes as a fundamental are reviewed.
Others parts of the site include Introduction, Theories, and Books.
INTRODUCTION: This section is mainly targeted at readers who are relatively unfamiliar with the area. It provides some background material on the problems in consciousness studies, the reasons for looking for a solution in fundamental physics and some of the basic concepts and problems involved in modern physics. At the end of the introduction section we also provide a short reading list entitled ‘15 Books to Change the World‘.
THEORIES: This section deals with books and papers covering the work of some of the main quantum consciousness thinkers including Penrose and Hameroff, David Bohm and Henry Stapp as well as some less well known figures.
BOOKS: At the present time this involves a single book, also available in paperback or kindle versions, ‘Consciousness, Biology and Fundamental Physics‘ which attempts to give a comprehensive over view of the subjects discussed above. A second book on neuroscience and consciousness is in preparation.
The most recent additions to the blog are listed below:-
1.) Panpsychism in the West - posted on Philosophy on 15 October 2013 - Summary and review of David Skrbina’s book on panpsychism
2.) Mechanical brain concept - posted on Neuroscience and Emotions on 15 October 2013 - possibility of mechanical signalling in addition to better known electrical and biochemical signalling
3.) Planck Probe - posted on Physics and Cosmology on 14 October 2013 - Possible need for changes in inflation theory
4.) Brain & Gaze - posted on Neuroscience and Emotions on 14 October 2013 - Review of Jan Lauwereyns book with emphasis on biases in visual processing
5.) Dorsomedial striatum and expected return – posted on Neuroscience and Emotions on 14 October 2013 - Relates to the brain’s reward and decision making systems
6.) Dopamine, reward and aversion - posted on Neuroscience and Emotions on 14 October 2013 - Relates to the brain’s reward and decision making systems
DEFINITION OF CONSCIOUSNESS: This is probably the stage at which we should provide a definition of the consciousness that we are going to try and talk about here. Consciousness is defined as our awareness that we exist, and that consciously existing and having sensory experience is like something. It is like something to be alive, to have a body and to experience the colour red and the numerous other sensory inputs. Put another way, we have a subjective experience of the external world, our bodies, our emotions and preferences and our thoughts. In contrast, it is usually assumed not to be like anything to be a table, a chair or any other inanimate object. Further to being like something, consciousness also gives us the experience of preferences and real or apparent choice. There is something it is like to choose between types of beer, or between a small amount of benefit now, as against a more substantial benefit in the future. These subjective experiences are otherwise referred to as qualia. The problem of qualia or phenomenal experience is here viewed as the whole of the problem of consciousness. The problem we have to address here is the so-called ‘hard problem‘ of how consciousness/subjective experience/qualia arise in physical matter, or more loosely of how you get consciousness from meat.