God new evidence

GOD: new evidence


Is Consciousness an illusion?

(Beyond Ourselves #07)

What's in the series?      Previous: True or false       Next: Is Consciousness a Performance?

Does consciousness point to a deeper story behind the atoms and molecules we are made from? Some people will go to desperate lengths to explain away anything that hints otherwise.

So for example the well-known atheist Daniel Dennett claims in one recent book that consciousness is just an illusion – an illusion that helps us to monitor and manage ourselves, and to deal with one another, but still just an illusion.

Another example is this claim from professor Nicholas Humphrey of Cambridge University:

'Our starting assumption as scientists ought to be that on some level consciousness has to be an illusion... If nothing in the physical world can have the features that consciousness seems to have, then consciousness cannot exist as a thing in the physical world.'

But this claim does not make any sense: who, or what, is having the illusion of being conscious, if it is not a conscious person? Was Humphrey conscious when he wrote these words? My own being conscious is the one thing I cannot be deluded about. As one reviewer of Dennett’s book points out, 'It can’t appear to me that I am conscious though I am not.' 

So we have a choice: on one hand there is a theory (that we are just atoms and molecules) which leads to a bizarre conclusion. On the other hand there is the obvious reality of our own lived experience. Why choose the theory?  If it obviously contradicts reality, shouldn't we just say 'so much the worse for it'?

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Peter S Williams

‘Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.’
- Nobel Prize-winning scientist Arno Penzias