Consciousness - a product of the brain?

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Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#1  Postby JoeB » Mar 30, 2012 8:05 am

JWG wrote:JoeB- As for consciousness being a product of the brain, I've been told that there is no concrete evidence that the brain is the source of consciousness. I know others have had equally credible theories that the brain is more of a transmitter of 'consciousness'/data, both not fully proven yet. I, of course, could be extremely off base. If you feel that my uncertainty in this manner is unjustified, please provide me with the evidence for the brain as 'the' source of inception for our consciousness.

Well there is evidence that our brain creates our consciousness, for example these three points:
- It can be seen in terms of brain activity, conscious persons have more and different brain activity than unconscious persons
- When one cuts off oxygen supply to the brain so that it fails to function consciousness is one of the first things to fail
- Physical damage to the brain, and aging of the brain, causes changes in personality, moods and character.

Of course one can dismiss such evidence and say it merely means the brain functions as some sort of transmitter, but then I would like to ask the one making such claims to demonstrate what the source is other than the brain itself. There has simply never been any evidence that there is something other than the material brain at work. In fact, the third point about brain damage affecting personality pretty much falsifies dualism.

And before you mention them, out of body experiences and near death experiences have been shown to be physical effects, not spiritual.
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#2  Postby Kenaz » Mar 30, 2012 12:36 pm

JoeB wrote:
Well there is evidence that our brain creates our consciousness, for example these three points:
- It can be seen in terms of brain activity, conscious persons have more and different brain activity than unconscious persons
- When one cuts off oxygen supply to the brain so that it fails to function consciousness is one of the first things to fail
- Physical damage to the brain, and aging of the brain, causes changes in personality, moods and character.

Of course one can dismiss such evidence and say it merely means the brain functions as some sort of transmitter, but then I would like to ask the one making such claims to demonstrate what the source is other than the brain itself. There has simply never been any evidence that there is something other than the material brain at work. In fact, the third point about brain damage affecting personality pretty much falsifies dualism.

And before you mention them, out of body experiences and near death experiences have been shown to be physical effects, not spiritual.


I want to say once more, I am not trying to prove a notion that the brain is in fact a transmitter of consciousness as opposed to the source of it outright. I am going to say, however, that each of your points are only valid in proving the brain is THE source of consciousness if you assume that there can be no other medium or factor involved other than the organ of the brain. We hear, but our ears don't create the sound; they are a tool for receiving it and experiencing it. The notion that our brain may perhaps be better viewed as a tool for processing data from our other sensory organs and transmitting these in combination (forming our conscious experience) to what we call our 'consciousness' is an interesting one.

Consciousness will always be a sort of elusive topic when it comes to science due to the fact that it's the very thing we rely on to even discuss it or try and observe it, I think. I hope I'm wrong though, but nonetheless it's entertaining and interesting to think about and discuss.
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#3  Postby GrahamH » Mar 30, 2012 12:45 pm

JWG wrote:JoeB- As for consciousness being a product of the brain, I've been told that there is no concrete evidence that the brain is the source of consciousness. I know others have had equally credible theories that the brain is more of a transmitter of 'consciousness'/data, both not fully proven yet. I, of course, could be extremely off base. If you feel that my uncertainty in this manner is unjustified, please provide me with the evidence for the brain as 'the' source of inception for our consciousness.


What are these "...credible theories that the brain is more of a transmitter of 'consciousness'/data.." ?
Why do you think that?
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#4  Postby JoeB » Mar 30, 2012 1:01 pm

JWG wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler: snip
JoeB wrote:
Well there is evidence that our brain creates our consciousness, for example these three points:
- It can be seen in terms of brain activity, conscious persons have more and different brain activity than unconscious persons
- When one cuts off oxygen supply to the brain so that it fails to function consciousness is one of the first things to fail
- Physical damage to the brain, and aging of the brain, causes changes in personality, moods and character.

Of course one can dismiss such evidence and say it merely means the brain functions as some sort of transmitter, but then I would like to ask the one making such claims to demonstrate what the source is other than the brain itself. There has simply never been any evidence that there is something other than the material brain at work. In fact, the third point about brain damage affecting personality pretty much falsifies dualism.

And before you mention them, out of body experiences and near death experiences have been shown to be physical effects, not spiritual.


I want to say once more, I am not trying to prove a notion that the brain is in fact a transmitter of consciousness as opposed to the source of it outright. I am going to say, however, that each of your points are only valid in proving the brain is THE source of consciousness if you assume that there can be no other medium or factor involved other than the organ of the brain. We hear, but our ears don't create the sound; they are a tool for receiving it and experiencing it. The notion that our brain may perhaps be better viewed as a tool for processing data from our other sensory organs and transmitting these in combination (forming our conscious experience) to what we call our 'consciousness' is an interesting one.

Consciousness will always be a sort of elusive topic when it comes to science due to the fact that it's the very thing we rely on to even discuss it or try and observe it, I think. I hope I'm wrong though, but nonetheless it's entertaining and interesting to think about and discuss.


The brain does all the things you say it does, and it also creates our consciousness, I do not know of anything else that could create our consciousness instead. I agree with your ideas about the brain collecting all impulses and presenting them to our consciousness, but that doesn't mean that consciousness itself is separate from the rest of the brain right?
Another piece of evidence might be that drugs that affect the neurotransmitters in our brain cause changes in personality, this shows that the mechanisms (those affected neurotransmitters) in our brain do indeed create a form of self-awareness etc. that we call consciousness.
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#5  Postby Shrunk » Mar 30, 2012 1:06 pm

GrahamH wrote:
JWG wrote:JoeB- As for consciousness being a product of the brain, I've been told that there is no concrete evidence that the brain is the source of consciousness. I know others have had equally credible theories that the brain is more of a transmitter of 'consciousness'/data, both not fully proven yet. I, of course, could be extremely off base. If you feel that my uncertainty in this manner is unjustified, please provide me with the evidence for the brain as 'the' source of inception for our consciousness.


What are these "...credible theories that the brain is more of a transmitter of 'consciousness'/data.." ?


Maybe we should move this discussion to another thread?
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#6  Postby Kenaz » Mar 30, 2012 2:02 pm

JoeB wrote:
The brain does all the things you say it does, and it also creates our consciousness, I do not know of anything else that could create our consciousness instead. I agree with your ideas about the brain collecting all impulses and presenting them to our consciousness, but that doesn't mean that consciousness itself is separate from the rest of the brain right?
Another piece of evidence might be that drugs that affect the neurotransmitters in our brain cause changes in personality, this shows that the mechanisms (those affected neurotransmitters) in our brain do indeed create a form of self-awareness etc. that we call consciousness.


Joe-

I appreciate the exchange of thoughts between the two of us. Re-reading everything, I think I am beginning to say the same thing you are trying to say, but perhaps a bit more redundantly, ha ha. The current evidence that I am aware of and understand it as, does in fact point towards the brain, although I do like to view it, as a model, in terms of a computer processor. When I say data, I simply mean all of the 'data' that makes up our conscious experience from all of the vast sensory organs of the body, forming our 'conscious experience.' I do think we are on the same page.

While I remain open to further evidence to show other wise, and find this topic interesting; I must make level assumptions on what evidence I am aware of and the little of that I currently understand to base my conclusions. Now enough of me swaying the thread's topic. I'm good now, sorry everyone. :lol:
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Re: The Illusions of Atheism

#7  Postby JoeB » Mar 30, 2012 2:05 pm

Yes I think we're talking about the same thing as well :P

You might enjoy The Mind's I by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. :)
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#8  Postby MonykaTyche » Apr 01, 2012 12:51 pm

From what and how I understand it... Consciousness is a product of the CNS's capability to process incoming information, when you alter it's capabilities with drugs or lesions, you get a different product that is nonetheless real to the person. Many, psychological disorders attest to this notion as well, some patients will have recurring thoughts that they know is wrong because they were told so by others, yet they still believe them deeply and consequently affected by them, therefore it would seem their existence is limited by their brain's capability to process.

But, I do not think the answer to the debate is there. I think the nest bet would be to study a person that has been meditating for many years, an experienced monk or the like. This person demonstrates abilities that are mostly unseen in the field. Someone that is in total inaction yet very much alive. Those are the brain waves, oxygen levels, physical responses we should be measuring.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#9  Postby amkerman » Apr 01, 2012 1:14 pm

from what i understand consciousness is a fundamental property of reality which complex systems such s the brain are sufficiently wired enough to intercept.

like gravity.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#10  Postby Nostalgia » Apr 01, 2012 1:40 pm

amkerman wrote:from what i understand consciousness is a fundamental property of reality which complex systems such s the brain are sufficiently wired enough to intercept.

like gravity.


Any peer-reviewed science to back this understanding up?
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#11  Postby MonykaTyche » Apr 01, 2012 3:32 pm

MacIver wrote:
amkerman wrote:from what i understand consciousness is a fundamental property of reality which complex systems such s the brain are sufficiently wired enough to intercept.

like gravity.


Any peer-reviewed science to back this understanding up?



I am not sure how this could be tested empirically, maybe I lack imagination in this respect. Although, there many excellent philosophy papers out there.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#12  Postby Steve » Apr 01, 2012 3:54 pm

MacIver wrote:
amkerman wrote:from what i understand consciousness is a fundamental property of reality which complex systems such s the brain are sufficiently wired enough to intercept.

like gravity.


Any peer-reviewed science to back this understanding up?

Simple enough to test as it suggests several things. First it suggests a brain is not the only system that could intercept it, so we need to find another one (or make it like an AI). Second is a little trickier but if it is merely intercepted by a brain it originates outside the brain and therefore there will be consistencies that do not vary regardless of what "complex system" intercepts it. Obviously each brain would leave its mark, like a fingerprint. But there should be some things that do not vary like the medium that captures the fingerprint.

But first we need to find a complex system other than a brain that can intercept it. You would think such an entity would not be hard to find, especially now that we have leveraged our senses with the technologies of the last 100 years.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#13  Postby Kenaz » Apr 02, 2012 4:46 am

There is no doubt in my mind that I have seen the effects first hand, of people who's brain has deteriorated (Alzheimer's) when I worked at a local nursing home while in high school. These people seemed 'crazy' or 'out of it', but to me, it was not so much that they were 'gone', but they're ability to function and communicate to our norm was deteriorated.

While I agree that the brain, and it's changes, show a correlation in the quality of consciousness I have seen; it really does not say anything other than the fact that the brain is a major function in the ability of consciousness to express itself. It's really an odd situation, as we are trying to observe (and gain evidence/data) the very thing that allows us to observe.

When we talk about someone's consciousness, and the lack thereof, are we not usually referring to their level of awareness to surroundings, their ability to communicate with us, and in the depredation of the quality (such as with Alzheimer's), their personality? These are many subsets of the more general consciousness. I am not claiming that there is an element of consciousness outside of the brain's capacity, but I am saying that it is possible that there may be, and it would most likely be way different than our current experience. This is something we can't even currently know, so it is currently nothing other than a theory thrown out there, and if taking seriously, a belief.

If we were able to create a synthetic version of our brain, perhaps through Artificial Intelligence, resulting in a conscious 'cyborg' or perhaps being able to one day re-create the faculties that give us our current 'self' (personality, memories, etc), that may shed a bit more light on the aspects of consciousness for us. That is far beyond my current understanding, and may perhaps never happen, but if it does, I hope I am around to experience it and see it.

Neat topic, a lot of 'gaps' (that are easily filled by the desire of an assumption to be true, although we currently have no evidence). Neat and fun to discuss nonetheless.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#14  Postby GrahamH » Apr 02, 2012 8:15 am

What are the alternatives?
1. The brain is a consciousness interface / transceiver between the physical and the mental

Mental faculties exist in an immaterial unified mind and the physical brain is sophisticated transducer. an analogy for this might be a remotely operated probe sent into an alien environment to provide telepresence for a conscious operator. The probe might have a degree of autonomy to move detect and maintain itself, but the subjective experiences associated with the probe body reside in the remote operator's mind.

It is hard to see how damage to the probe would produce alterations in the operators memory and personality, although it could account for various sensory defects.

Another difficulty is that the operator would have no awareness of itself as an operator. We could suppose that operators were attached to probes at birth (whatever that might mean) such that the operator has no experiences of its own reality.

2. The brain is the physical apsect of an arrangement of stuff with mental properties, such that assembling a mind also assembles a brain as a by product.

In this view it could be that a neuron, an atom, or some other unit, is a combination of physical and mental properties. None of the physical properties play a part in consciousness, but the interconnections of units with mental properties forms a mind.

This is consciousness as a product of the brain, but posits an unobservable mental property toed to physical properties. It could be a panpsychism. It would seem to rule out separable spirit minds, life after death etc.

The problem with this idea is that attaching some essential property of awareness to the parts would seem to result in awareness of the parts within the whole. It would make it mysterious that we aren't aware of our own brains, or why our awareness is so limited. How could there be unconscious/subconscious aspects of mind if mind is made of awareness?
Why do you think that?
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#15  Postby MonykaTyche » Apr 02, 2012 10:16 pm

JWG wrote:

While I agree that the brain, and it's changes, show a correlation in the quality of consciousness I have seen; it really does not say anything other than the fact that the brain is a major function in the ability of consciousness to express itself. It's really an odd situation, as we are trying to observe (and gain evidence/data) the very thing that allows us to observe.



In your post you touch on something really important. :think:

"..the brain's function is to express consciousness..." this would imply that the brain is not the seed of consciousness, but merely another organ collecting and churning data and responding accordingly, and consciousness a factor moderating or mediating (have not worked out which would make most sense, they are very different) the behavioural output of the brain.

Interesting...
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#16  Postby SpeedOfSound » May 21, 2012 1:50 pm

It's probably a problem for philosophy but the word consciousness is not a good place to start a bit about the science of the brain. We could say that what we are really talking about is the fact that we think and perceive at all. No one would suggest that thinking and perceiving are not about the brain. It's like saying that my being alive is not about my body.

But if anyone is interested in trying to find a way turn the ideas of consciousness into artifacts that we can talk about I am interested.

If you think there is some supernatural basis or even some fundamental basis to our minds then you belong in philosophy or religion. Not here.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#17  Postby DavidMcC » May 21, 2012 3:10 pm

amkerman wrote:from what i understand consciousness is a fundamental property of reality which complex systems such s the brain are sufficiently wired enough to intercept.

Really? ... Get a better dictionary.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#18  Postby DavidMcC » May 21, 2012 3:15 pm

GrahamH wrote:How could there be unconscious/subconscious aspects of mind if mind is made of awareness?

If you define "mind" as "awareness" then you simply define the subconscious as "unawareness". There is no problem with this if you realise that the brain isn't all conscious, and evolved as an organ complex, whose older parts are not "made of awareness", but which are contacted by newer, aware parts.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#19  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » May 21, 2012 3:20 pm

For once I'd like to see these discussions based on the consciousness of ants, rather than humans. It might take the emotional appeals out of play.
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Re: Consciousness - a product of the brain?

#20  Postby GrahamH » May 21, 2012 3:39 pm

Ihavenofingerprints wrote:For once I'd like to see these discussions based on the consciousness of ants, rather than humans. It might take the emotional appeals out of play.


Do you know anything about the consciousness of ants?
Why do you think that?
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