Christian Thought in the 21st Century

Consciousness: Mind, Spirit, Brain.

Part 4

Problems with Functionalist Data

>These arguements center on the problems with the functionalist school, those who say that the mind is only a product of the brain, illusory, or "chemicals in your head.

A. Functionalists only study brain function have not touched consciousness

1) Experience is hard problem of consciousness

David J. Chalmers

Dept. philosphy U. Arizona


The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

a) Brin/mind bait and switch: reduce phenomena to something else. Charlmers again:

Quote: "The ambiguity of the term "consciousness" is often exploited by both philosophers and scientists writing on the subject. It is common to see a paper on consciousness begin with an invocation of the mystery of consciousness, noting the strange intangibility and ineffability of subjectivity, and worrying that so far we have no theory of the phenomenon. Here, the topic is clearly the hard problem - the problem of experience. In the second half of the paper, the tone becomes more optimistic, and the author's own theory of consciousness is outlined. Upon examination, this theory turns out to be a theory of one of the more straightforward phenomena - of reportability, of introspective access, or whatever. At the close, the author declares that consciousness has turned out to be tractable after all, but the reader is left feeling like the victim of a bait-and-switch. The hard problem remains untouched."

The hard problem: Closing the empirical gap

JCS, 3 (1), 1996, pp.54-68

JCS, 3 (1), 1996, pp.69-75

David Hodgson

Supreme Court of New South Wales,

Queens Square,


"David Chalmers distinguishes the hard problem of consciousness &emdash; why should a physical system give rise to conscious experiences at all &emdash; with what he calls the easy problems, the explanation of how cognitive systems, including human brains, perform various cognitive functions. He argues that the easy problems are easy because the performance of any function can be explained by specifying a mechanism that performs the function. This article argues that conscious experiences have a role in the performance by human beings of some cognitive functions, that can't be realised by mechanisms of the kind studied by the objective sciences; and that accordingly some of Chalmers' easy problems will not be fully solved unless and until the hard problem is solved. "

b) Dennett Bait and Swtich

Ibid. "His predictions would only corroborate that consciousness is indeed made up of modules but would say nothing about the whole that other parts of his text keep implying exists, even while he overtly denies their existence. In an ironically telling passage, he reveals why he denies it: "Postulating special inner qualities that are not only private and intrinsically valuable, but also unconfirmable and immeasurable is just obscurantism." (450) With his methodological assumption, he must deny qualities he assumes are univestigatable.30 But his text throughout states or implies there is an emergent entity beyond the "quasi-understandings," a "seems" that must be somehere in the brain; apparently, he does not address this "seems" because it is univestigatable. But his text posits it. Therefore, the text is guilty of obscurantism --even a doubly-embedded obscurantism, because it does not acknowledge its buried postulation."

2). Functionalists merely reduce concept of consciousenss to things they can study.



"Why are the easy problems easy, and why is the hard problem hard? The easy problems are easy precisely because they concern the explanation of cognitive abilities and functions. To explain a cognitive function, we need only specify a mechanism that can perform the function. The methods of cognitive science are well-suited for this sort of explanation, and so are well-suited to the easy problems of consciousness. By contrast, the hard problem is hard precisely because it is not a problem about the performance of functions. The problem persists even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained. (Here "function" is not used in the narrow teleological sense of something that a system is designed to do, but in the broader sense of any causal role in the production of behavior that a system might perform.)"

3) Dennett Never Deliniates Conscousness

L. Miller. 145


"Dennett (1991) paradoxically first allows himself not to delineate consciousness, then proceeds through his tome to deconstruct the consciousness that he never delineated, saying that what appears as a single flow or "Joycean machine" (220) is actually an illusion created by several processes within the brain arising in rapid succession, in what he calls "multiple drafts" (111). In a variation of the fox and grapes tale, Dennett handicaps/sabotages his tool in advance, so it cannot reach the fruit, then turns and says the fruit does not even exist.26 One wonders why even bother building the tool (perhaps because so many others are building one, and one must appeal to them?). The problem nags; he never delimits the one thing he wants to show is not one thing, so the consciousness he is attacking is a defanged straw person from the start."

B. Funcitionalist Lack data to Make Good Their Calims

1) Functionalist Claims based upon ideology rather than data

Dualism: An Empiricial TEST?

Or how a double success could be a failure

Peter King

Lecuturer University North London

"The rejection of what I've called full-blooded dualism is in fact an assumption made by `cognitive scientists', neurophysiologists, and the like, not a conclusion drawn from their work. That this is not noticed by many philosophers is more than a little worrying. Happily, the philosophical fashion that, for example, encouraged the sneering use of `Cartesian' as an insult, often by those who have hardly taken the trouble to read or think about Descartes, shows some sign of passing. The sooner the better."

2) Study perametures Veg no real definition of consciousenss.

a) Researchers Cant' agree on definsitions of consciousenss or what they study

Craig DeLancy [CS:JCS:4.5-6.492]:
"That we are not yet close to a working theory of consciousness--that we are even unsure of what kind of theory a theory of consciousness might ultimately be--has as a consequence that much of the debate about consciousness is reducible to a disagreement of brute intuitions."

note: There are two Millers being used for documentation on this page. One is Glenn Miller, Christian apologist, who has a degree from Dallas Theological semenary, and Lantz Miller, who is not a Christian, and studied in Graduate School in Psycho-neuro endrinconology at MIT.

Lantz Miller, Negations, No. 3, Winter 1998/99. p147


While Dennett's and Michie's ambitions are swallowed by the very vacuum their ambitions create by voiding their object of definition, the general vacuum arising from the lack of consensus on what consciousness researchers as a whole are discussing merely makes each contributor not add to any whole; thus, she or he is speaking in a virtual void. The problem came to fore when Chalmers (1995) presented his "easy/hard" scenario in a symposium of articles addressing his approach. Lowe (1995) and Velmans (1995) outright contend with the definition, as it were, that Chalmers set forth; Shear (1995) less contentiously but more adventurously expands on the usage that the contributors were urged to follow.

Lowe takes issue with Chalmers' characterizing consciousness in terms of "the sensuous, or phenomenal, or qualitative character of experience." (267) Lowe finds that experiences may validly be either perceptual or sensational in character; though grounded in its phenomenal character, a perceptual experience is also affected by its representational (intentional) content (thought being purely intentional without sensuous content). Lowe also lashes at Chalmers' idea of cognitive information, which lacks the notion of conceptual content. With these alleged misunderstandings, Chalmers' whole system of easy/hard problems collapses, Lowe asserts, for not addressing anything real. Velmans faults Chalmers for consigning "awareness" to "phenomena associated with consciousness, such as the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli; the integration of information by a cognitive system," (258) while "consciousness" should be relegated to "experience."

Velmans finds that this terminology is already theoretically loaded, for it implies that "information processes associated with consciousness are themselves in some sense `sentient.'" (258) Shear presents certain traditions in eastern thought "removing attention from all phenomenal objects of consciousness... leaving consciousness alone by itself." (64) Such an assumption about what consciousness is would mean the researcher holding the assumption could not mean the same as Chalmers does with the same word, so their theories could not refer to the same thing so, together, would be meaningless.

Walter Freeman, one of the leading researchers in neurobiology [CS:CRA:86]:

"The problem remains: how to define neural activity. It is not directly observable, and it is not a force, a chemical concentraion, an electric current, or a flow of information. Just as 'forc' in physics is defined as a relation (mass to acceleration), neural activity must be defined by the relations between its elctrochemical signs and overt behavior"

* One of the main problems with brain-studies is that the subject 'never sits still'.

1. The brain is an adaptive organ--it changes its structure and patterns CONSTANTLY, as it responds to stimuli from without and from within-- The lifetime of EEG studies by Walter Freeman basically showed that there WERE NO predictable neuroz changes due to stimuli. The same stimulus applied successively made different changes to the brain. The brain adapted its response! This makes the old 'repeatability' requirement for experimentation on neural states nearly impossible. [CS:JCS:3.2.174]

2. The brain is an adaptive organ: in damaged brains, some areas can pick up the workload from damaged areas--the notion of neuroplacticity [CS:BR].

3. The brain is an adaptive organ: in damage brains, alternate pathways can be quickly created [CS:BR]

4. The brain is a distributed workhorse: even visually unified experience is immediately segmented and routed to disparate sites in the brain [CS:JCS:3.2.186]

* We do not have very many meaningful correlations between neuroz and psychoz; and these links are critical to understanding:

The EMs Grish/Churchland note [CS:JCS:2.1.10]: "no one would say we pretty much understand the neurobiological mechanisms of consciousness" and "we are still in the very early stages of understanding the nervous system"[p.27].

J.A. Gray (Psychology) reports about a consensus at a recent CIBA conference [CS:JCS:2.1.7,9]:

"We do not have that in the case of consciousness, what we have is brute correlation. That is to say we have perceptual inputs, we have events that take place in the brain, we have behavioral outputs and we have conscious experience, but we do not at present have an account of how one is linked to the other..."

"At present, however, there is no hint of a theoretical understand of the nature of that link that would take us beyond brute correlation towards a 'transparent' theory of causal connection"

* And if you thought defining neural activity was difficult, try 'consciousness'!

The entry for 'consciousness' in the International Dictionary of Psychology by Stuart Sutherland (1989), while accused of being unduly pessimistic, is a bit close to home:

"Consciousness: The having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means...Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written about it."

* And there is certainly no consensus in ANY of the related disciplines:

Paul Rogers (Univ. of Exeter) describes the lack of consensus that exists in the field of cognitive science [CS:JCS:2.1.82]:

"The cognitive science student deserves our sympathy. It is difficult to think of another area of study where there is so much disagreement amongst the constituent parts, and even within those parts themselves--neuroscience, AI, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, quantum and evolutionary theory.

The materialist-majority is long-gone. * And frankly, we are not sure we can even MAKE such a 'link'!

Chalmers points out the very methodological problem within the issue [CS:JCS:2.3.208]:

"At the end of the day, the same criticism applies to any purely physical account of consciousness. For any physical process we specify there will be an unanswered question: Why should this process give rise to experience? Given any such process, it is conceptually coherent that it could be instantiated in the absence of experience. It follows that no mere account of the physical process will tell us why experience arises. The emergence of experience goes beyond what can be derived from physical theory."

b) Conscoiusness studies have Veg Objectives

L. Miller, Ibid.151

"The lack of systematic approach and the ad hoc, chaotic scrambling to assert theories with hardly or barely a nod toward clarification of what is being discussed only induce the question of just what are consciousness researchers attempting to get out of a theory... now that it has been seen (1.2) how little progress has been made toward either identifying the object of study in consciousness studies, not to speak of community consensus on this identity, theorists' leaps to create new universes, as it were, simply suppressing the tendency of contemporary jadedness unleashes the question, "What's the hurry? Is the anxiety to manipulate and control some niche of the universe so overwhelming that we cannot first calmly learn and characterize what we want to manipulate before we mess with it? Why are we so anxious to manipulate these niches?"

3) Brain/Mind Reductionists Way ahead of themselves--premature calims

L.Miller, Ibid.

"Consciousness researchers remain so unsettled on just what they want to talk about that some of the visions of grandeur of vanquishing the human mind and spirit might sound a tad presumptuous, like making plans of travel to other galaxies before inventing the wheel. In 1994, Francis Crick projected that by the turn of the century, scientists --perhaps himself in the pack-- will havve found "the general principle of neural correlates of consciousness, which has now been abbreviated to NCC." (11) Now that our scientific australopithici have their acronym, they only have to invent the wheel in enough time to get to the galaxies in the next year. Veering ever closer to the stars, one astrophysicist cum consciousness commentator has projected humanity progressing from "consciousness" interconnected via television to the race's mind literally and directly linked via computers until human consciousness is somehow incorporated into one vast machine that transports consciousness bits through wormhole relay stations to other galaxies "(Darling 1993).

4) No causal connection between brian/mind proven--data proves nothing.

Lantz Miller, Negations, no. 3, Winter 1998/99, "The Hard Sell of Human Consciousness,"

Similarly, in dismissing Crick's assertion that synchronous firing of neurons at 40 Hz frequency correlates with consciousness, Greenfield writes: Just because consciousness and synchronized activity between the thalamus and the cortex can both occur in the absence of sensory stimulation does not mean that one causes the other, that consciousness arises wholly from that synchronized activity. (133)

Certainly, Greenfield has also not shown that just because schizophrenics and drug users have altered neural assemblies (and supposedly gestalts) and altered consciousness, that one causes the other, that consciousness or whatever gestalts are arise wholly from that neural assembly.

Often good at confessions, Greenfield does finally admit "there is still the nagging question of how the combination within a neuronal group (its epicenter) really is the equivalent of, for example, our consciousness of an orange. The answer there has no real, empirically proven answer." (130) Yet she makes no atonement for this trespass against our credulity (just as she never fulfilled her initial contrition for lack of definition). Admitting there is a hole in your theory as big as your neighbor's you just dismissed does not plug anything. That there are such holes (along with a lack of clear reference to anything) in her theory --the same sort of holes as those in thee theory with which she contrasts her own,12 brings up the question of what motivates her theory, as well as her colleagues': A prompt from ground-level inquiry-- or, What is this sort of thing we are dealing with? In sum, pure inquiry shows no evidence of being at work here.13

Page 5: Problems with Dennette and AI

The Religious A priori