What does science think about consciousness?

  1. I have the be careful because I don't want this topic to be about philosophy. I want to know what science thinks about consciousness. Is there a global agreement on what it might be? A physical thing like a gene or is it linked in with dna?

    There must be some kind of scientific view on what it could or is likely to be. Please only reply if you're professionally qualified to do so. I don't want philosophical answers that will get the thread closed.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. jim mcnamara

    jim mcnamara 1,488
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This is/was a "fringe" refereed paper:
    This area of Neuroscience is not hard science. IMO, I liken it to the way Psychology was a long while back. It is hard to get a lot of rigor in the subject.

    If you take a class on the history of science, you will encounter something like the following model:
    Alpha science - purely descriptive ---> Omega science is highly predictive, has theories and models that are proven to work in the real world and in applied science, and predicts relations between disparate fields that were not previously recognized. Obviously there are beta, gamma steps and so on down the spectrum.

    The best I can give Consciousness studies is that it is a beginning alpha science: Like Linnaeus was doing, in the early 1700's, putting things into cubby holes so they have a common reference - basic descriptive science.

    You can google for 'neuroscience consciousness' and look around. The JCS is now defunct.
    http://www.imprint.co.uk/jcs.html

    I am not a psychologist, surely some will not have a view like mine. I was trained as a biologist. So I'm a "harder" science guy looking at a "softer" science.

    If you don't know Linnaeus, you should:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Linnaeus
     
  4. Jano L.

    Jano L. 1,221
    Gold Member

    Exact sciences are largely about mechanisms and their mathematical analysis. When applied to human, science traditionally views it as a machine, so there is no obvious place or meaning for "consciousness". Most scientists do not think about this concept in terms of science.

    There may be some attempts to model thinking process in scientific way, perhaps similar to what is studied in the subject "artificial intelligence".

    Meanwhile, "consciousness" is a difficult matter that can be perhaps better studied by other disciplines, perhaps psychology or philosophy.
     
  5. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,602
    Gold Member

    No. There's no global agreement. There's not even really conclusive evidence to agree on. There are some frameworks being developed, though:

    Varela's "brainweb":
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11283746

    Christof Koch's "framework for consciousness"
    http://codatest4.library.caltech.edu/26/1/438.pdf

    Friston's "free energy principle":
    http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v11/n2/abs/nrn2787.html

    The real test would be able to alter the conscious experience in a reliable way. Currently, we can alter consciousness with drugs, but they're not reliable. They affect the system in unpredictable ways and affect different people differently.
     
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