Consciousness, New Thinking About

Matt Jones jonesmat at physiology.wisc.edu
Fri Jun 21 12:20:07 EST 2002


"DJ" <DJ at hotmail.com> wrote in message news:<newscache$hwizxg$3vn$1 at maggie.netlink.com.au>...
> John H. <John at overhere> wrote in message
> news:w60Q8.339$5l4.13149 at ozemail.com.au...
> > Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Their ideas have been
> > around for over a decade, trotted out in acceptable forums for much
> > discussion. Both are scientists, both know the golden rule: if you've got
>  a
> > theory, don't talk about it, find a way to prove it.
> 
> I'm not sure that you could say that any such "golden rule" exists with any
> confidence.  Consider:
> 
> - General Relativity
> - Schrodingers Cat
> - The "Many Worlds" or "Many Universes" theory
> 
> None of these have been proven before being "talked about".  But I'm glad,
> as probably most people are, that they are in the public arena.  There is
> also considerable evidence that scientists will invent new theories or
> "quick fixes" (which are sometimes beyond proof) when  their results don't
> match their theories.  e.g.:
> 
> - Einstein's cosmological constant
> - Renormalization
> 


<I don't want to get off on a rant here, but...>

Personally, I think it's fine for people to talk about theories before
they're proven. This is in fact necessary since, strictly speaking,
physical theories can never be proven, they can only be disproven
(which is why every good theory must be falsifiable - otherwise it can
be neither proven nor disproven and is therefore meaningless).

My gripe against the quantum consciousness thing is that it reminds me
very much of the guy who looks for his keys under the lampost, instead
of where he probably lost them, because the light's better under the
lampost.

It starts off with some extremely vague speculation about the sorts of
things that might be physical prerequisites for consciousness. In
fact, with the -unproven assumption- that consciousness is
"nonalgorithmic". From there it goes on to claim that the only thing
in the universe that is nonalgorithmic is collapse of the quantum wave
function.

Ah, but here's the problem:
We don't have a good theory for why and how the wave function
collapses.

And another problem:
We -also- don't have a good theory to relate quantum mechanics and
relativity (i.e., theory of quantum gravity).

And another problem:
We -also- don't have a good theory of consciousness.

But we probably -will- someday (because we're so bloody smart that
way).

We'll, what is that theory, which we don't yet have, but probably will
someday, and that simultaneously relates quantum mechanics, relativity
and consciousness, going to look like?

Hmm. It's going to need to be based on something physical, that
involves quantum mechanics and biology at the same time. That means it
needs to be a biological molecule, which we already know about, and in
which at least some evidence, no matter how trivial, has been obtained
that something vaguely like a quantum effect has been demonstrated.

AHA!!!!!!!

Microtubules!

Microtubules are molecules.
Microtubules are made of atoms and quarks and all that stuff.
Microtubules have been -DEMONSTRATED- (depending on who you believe)
to allow certain quantum effects, like tunneling or electron transfer
or whatever.

AND THERE ARE MICROTUBULES IN THE BRAIN !!!!

(...and in every other eukaryotic cell, but we won't dwell on that for
right now - although some thought should be given to the relation
between cells of the penis and consciousness, sperm being mainly
composed of microtubules - think I'm on to something here...).

Therefore, we conclude that microtubules are at the very core of
consciousness, nay, the very prerequisite for sentience in the
universe!

Q.E.D.


Pardon my sarcasm, but the whole line of reasoning seems so ultimately
ass-backwards to me (microtubules are to this hypothesis what straws
are to a drowning man) that I doubt if -any- practicing neuroscientist
has ever given the microtubule hypothesis a second thought But maybe
that's because we're not generally well-versed in working out tensor
equations.

As everyone knows, you need to understand tensors before you can
understand consciousness, let alone microtubules.

On the other hand, there are many many neuroscientists concerned with
issues such as randomness in brain function. But, being
neuroscientists, they usually pick something that might actually be
-uniquely- (or at least predominantly) related to the brain to study
when addressing the issue of randomness in -brain- function, such as
sodium channel gating, or retinal photon transduction, or synaptic
unreliability. But microtubules?

 Puh-leeease. 

<rant mode off>


Cheers,

Matt




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