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2/11/10

Are You What You Think You Are?


"If consciousness is only an illusion, it's the greatest mistake human beings have ever made."

Gerald Edelman—"together with Patricia and Paul Churchland, Daniel Dennett, John Searle, and Francis Crick, to name only the most well-known—have suddenly thrust onto center stage an unsettling series of solutions to the mystery of human self-awareness, our subjective experience of being alive and personal, of the divine spark, if you will.

These solutions are far from unanimous in their details, but they are all agreed on one very basic point: What we call 'consciousness' is purely a material process. Consciousness is not the evidence of a 'mind' substance as apart from 'body' substance; still less is 'consciousness' the activity of a spirit or soul inside our physical bodies. 'We are at the beginning of the neuroscientific revolution,' Edelman buoyantly declares, 'a prelude to the largest possible scientific revolution, one with inevitable and important social consequences.' . . .

More troubling are the implications for ethics and action posed by the consciousness studies. Gerald Edelman, with what sounds like real anguish, warns that 'under present machine models of the mind,' questions of ethics and morals become 'a problem of major proportions, for under such models it is easy to reject a human being or to exploit a person as simply another machine.' " More

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