In response to this video debate:
I am an “agnostic” for reasons I shall get into here momentarily. I don’t think the side of agnostics was adequately defended in the video.
Before I go further, I need to make some clarifications and distinctions in terms of atheism and agnosticism. Atheism is rejecting any belief that any kind of god exists, while agnosticism is essentially saying one can not be sure if a god exists.
These terms are too spiritually restrictive to encompass my arguments. I think we need a new term to separate the belief in an afterlife from the belief in a god. The two beliefs are not mutually inclusive, so it makes no sense to lump them together under the general definitions of atheism or agnosticism which only deals with god and not the existence of an eternal “soul”.
To my knowledge, my belief structure has not been defined into a word before so I shall make one up. In honor of Thomas Aquinas’s arguments for the soul, I shall label my belief structure Aquinosoulism. If someone has a word for this belief structure already, let me know and I’ll incorporate it.
I shall summarize Aquinosoulism as the following:
The belief that humans have an eternal soul that is intimately connected to, or a part of, their consciousness, while rejecting any form of an omnipotent god that interacts with the physical universe.
I believe that consciousness is a separate, distinct, and fundamental part of the universe. I believe consciousness pervades the universe, similar in a sense to Lorentz’s luminiferous aether. I don’t believe in a ‘global’ consciousness, where we are all sharing or interconnected through “consciousness.” I think we are individuals in that respect, but all of our consciousness ultimately arises from the same non-physical realm.
The reason why Lorentz, and others before him, felt so strongly that there must be some kind of aether is because light fundamentally acts as a wave. In order for a wave to propagate, it must have a medium to propagate through. Wave propagation without a medium is logically impossible (which is yet another reason why I reject Einstein’s nonsense about bending space).
I believe that consciousness can not be defined through materialism. Scientists will NEVER be able solve the hard problem of consciousness and I highly doubt they will ever derive a solution to the easy problem either. Given that, I believe that consciousness is most rationally explained as an external entity that interacts with the physical mind.
I believe that the physical mind is a “receiver and processor” of consciousness, in much the same way a wireless laptop is a “receiver and processor” of external information. I shall use the wireless laptop analogy to describe various aspects of how I believe human consciousness operates.
The laptop is a physical entity that exists, yet is incapable of doing anything on its own without external inputs. We can rip the laptop apart piece by piece, and from that, we can deduce exactly how everything within the laptop functions to produce the effects that it does. However, if a laptop was streaming video from the internet and then we destroyed the laptop by deconstructing it (assuming there is no logging), we would not be able to deduce where the video originated from.
We could tell how the video was displayed, how the video was processed, what parts of the laptop were used in the rendering and output of audio, how the logic circuits worked, and everything else – but the video itself would be no where to be found.
In a similar sense, this is our current understanding of the human mind. We can dissect the brain and view its substructure down to the level of the atom. We can see how nerve endings fire. We can tell what parts of the brain are responsible for processing certain external inputs. We can hook up electrodes to the brain and see how electrically active the brain is when certain thoughts are processed. We can even create moving MRI images of the brain in action as a thought is processed.
What we can’t tell is what causes a thought to originate or where the thought comes from. There is no logical physical reason why a certain arrangement of matter should give rise to subjective experience. – none. However, there are boatloads of reasons why a certain arrangement of physical matter should be able to receive and process information.
Moving on to the interruption of signals, if consciousness is being received from an external source, it would logically follow that we should be able to construct a shield from this source and be able to materially detect it and manipulate it. As a counter argument to this, I point to gravity. Gravity is a non-sheildable force that can not be manipulated (at least this is the present view of gravity.) We accept that gravity simply exists as we accept that consciousness simply exists.
Current mainstream science has no explanation for why matter should bend space (nor will it ever, since this is impossible) to provide for the effects of gravity. It is simply accepted that it this is so. They believe it to be so because of various observations about how physical matter reacts, but the ultimate “why” is not understood or justified at all.
If we were to damage the laptop in specific ways, certain specific errors could be induced. For example, if I was to damage the video card, the laptop wouldn’t be able to display video. If I was to damage the sound card, the laptop wouldn’t be able to output sound, and so forth. As an aside, it is interesting to note the use of biological terms to describe computer problems. In this sense, this our current view of the brain.
If we were to damage the part of the brain that processes sight, we would no longer be able to see. If we were to erode parts of the brain through Alzheimer, we could lose the ability to process memories. And like the laptop example, there is no physical mechanism that we can detect which stores the “video”. The video in my previous example is comparative to a memory. When connected without interruption to the internet, the laptop can recall and display the video at a moments notice, but if its processor or antenna is damaged, it may not be able to recall the video at all, or it may display it in a piecemeal stuttering fashion. It may even corrupt the video and display something that was never originally in the video to begin with.
I think that psychotropic drugs, brain surgery, brain damage, and other physical interventions with the mind, are nothing more than tampering with the processing hardware of consciousness. If the hardware isn’t working right, it follows that unexpected results will occur.
The physical sciences would have us believe that consciousness is simply an emergent property of whole brain activity. This is a typical fallacy that MOST scientists engage in. This is yet another separation of macro and micro effects without a coherent unifying structure which must be rejected. We see this same fallacious principle applied in macro/micro Keynesian economics and in macro/micro Einsteinian physics. Neither of them are unified and both of them are wrong.
Emergent properties must be explainable by a unified coherent structure from the level of the electron up to the interaction of galaxies. Simply stating that properties emerge from the chaotic action of matter without reason is ludicrous. Such a statement violates thermodynamic law. Philosophically speaking, emergent properties are equally indefensible.
Let us move on to some harder evidence. Near death experiences have been recorded by highly credible medical doctors for a long time now. One of the most interesting recorded cases of a near death experience can be found in the case of Pam Reynolds. Ms. Reynolds was able to report highly specific details about her surroundings during a period of brain surgery where she had no measurable brain activity at all. Her observations were later confirmed by Dr. Robert F. Spetzler, who conducted the surgery.
Of course, Ms. Reynolds is not alone in her experience. Such NDE experiences have been recorded since time immemorial by millions of individuals. Several modern religions can even trace their roots back to such experiences. While materialists propose a wide range of poor excuses to explain away these experiences, I find the most rational and logical explanation to be that consciousness is independent of the physical self.
Lastly, I would like to point out that an independent conciousness provides a mechanism to explain the “WHY” – the big why – the biggest why of them all – Why do we exist?
Without an independent and eternal consciousness, I don’t feel such a question could ever be rationally answered. It may be possible to derive a materialist explanation for such a question, but such an explanation is philosophically void.
I believe humanity’s purpose is to learn, love, and interact with the universe and everything in it. If consciousness in its raw form is in a state of perfection, it can never learn anything about itself. You can not “grow” as a person without challenge and competition. It is necessary to remove one’s self from a state of perfection, from mommy and daddy’s arms so-to-speak, if one is to have any real growth as a person.
Existence would be pretty boring if you had total knowledge of everything. Eventually you would beg to be in a place where you simply couldn’t know everything.