Does the key to consciousness lie within our brains?
Under the main title the article says:
Much recent research supports the view that science can describe consciousness.
Then the recent research is necessarily flawed. Science describes the material world, by which I mean the quantifiable/measurable aspects of reality. Our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, although having quantifiable aspects, are not exhausted by their quantifiable aspects e.g. the patch of green I see may be of a certain size and shape and shade and reflect a certain wavelength of light, but the greenness itself resides outside the ambit of science. This blog post by me is of relevance.
The study of consciousness remained solidly in the philosophical realm up to recent times as science had no way to measure it. That changed in the early 2000s with the arrival of brain scanning machines such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The Brain scanning machines scan the brain, not consciousness.
It is a common belief that humans are exceptional and superior to other animals, because we are conscious and self-aware.
It is only a few scientists and other mavericks that would deny that all non-human animals lack consciousness. Self-awareness? I always have regarded this as meaning to be aware that one is a self i.e a distinct entity that endures through time. In which case, I would imagine most non-human animals lack it, but certainly not all.
Scientists remain unsure why consciousness first evolved, or what survival advantage it gave us and other animals.
Scientists hold the view that consciousness per se has no causal efficacy. If they are correct, then it could not evolve, nor convey any survival advantage.
Higher consciousness took millions of years to evolve, so scientists believe it gave our human ancestors a big survival advantage.
Then they are being inconsistent. If consciousness gives humans a big survival advantage then necessarily it must be causally efficacious.
There are others, such as Daniel Dennett, professor of philosophy at Tufts University who counter that since consciousness is the by-product of a working brain, that it is well within the grasp of science and scientists to study, describe and understand it.
Let's leave aside how Dennett and others know that consciousness is a by-product of the brain. Even assuming this, how does it follow that science is able to study it? As I said at the beginning, it can't. Even if consciousness is somehow produced by the brain it nevertheless resides outside the ambit of science.
There has been much research over the past few decades that supports the view that science can describe consciousness. For example, neuroscientists know that looking at certain colours, such as red, influences brain activity, which can be read in a scanner.
That's not science describing consciousness unless one identifies the experience of seeing red with characteristic brain activity. So, here this is much more than the claim that brain activity somehow elicits consciousness, rather it would have to be the very same thing as consciousness. But, it's not, and it's not for the simple reason that brain activity is exhausted by all possible measurements we can make of it. In other words, its reality is cashed out in terms of all its physical properties. Consciousness, on the other hand, such as the experience of redness, has no physical or measurable properties.