danmc wrote:Have you every experienced the world apart from consciousness? How on earth could that be done? In point of fact, the only thing you have ever known IS consciousness. You don't ever know an objective world directly. All you've ever known is your experience of the world and that experience comes through the senses. So, the most you can say about an objective world is what you know and interpret of the information provided by the senses.
I know all our experience is in consciousness and its many levels. It is the only way we can get information about reality. But what we do know is that while awake, the information comes from the sensory organs and is an interpretation of the external world which exists objectively. Imagine being in a submarine and sonar tells you what is out there. The screens inside the sub will tell you what surrounds it (water, rocks, other subs etc.) but if the sub is destroyed, the underwater environment will still exist and can still be confirmed to exist by other conscious beings. Another great thing we evolved is communication - which enables us to agree on some things. In saying this, we must also acknowledge that the brain can tell porkies just like the faulty systems inside a sub can provide the wrong information. This can make us believe in illusions. But thanks to our wonderful methods of studying reality and testing our theories, we have certainly reached an unprecedented level of sophistication that cannot be denied. Hail science! Another thing: just because we cannot observe the world directly (no living being can because the very act of observing requires their organic functions) does not mean that we are entitled to assume that the objective world is a product of consciousness. What you experience, which is subjective, is the only thing that can be described as being a mental construct.
danmc wrote:The brain, encased in solid bone, sits in total darkness for its entire existence, and, yet, makes a picture of the light that it has never encountered. Remember, all it has encountered are the electrical signals, not the actual light which never makes it past the retina. The data the brain has received has been "stepped down" from the actual occurence. How is this picture of light produced when light is never known directly? Is the picture of the light it produces what light really looks like? How would we know? And just where the heck is it happening?
Don't forget the complex arrangements of light receptor cells, how sensitive to light frequencies they are, and the amazing creative potential of the most complex organ we know: the brain. I also wouldn't say that the brain is in complete darkness. The cells of living organisms are capable of producing weak biophotonic emissions. If you are interested: http://transpersonal.de/mbischof/englisch/webbookeng.htm
danmc wrote:I think its much more fair to say that even if an objective world does exist, there is no way to know that. But I would go further still and say that consciousness doesn't exist in the world, the world exists in consciousness. In that sense, EVERYTHING is a construct of consciousness. This is something every lucid dreamer finds out!
We know it is objective. It is there, it exists whether we like it or not, it can be measured and does not transmute like a dream. It does change but we can measure it and see why these changes take place. There are physical laws that govern it. We can all see it, share it, comment on it, and we all can imagine utopian versions of it.
Dreaming is simply the product of the same mental "clay" that you use to perceive the world when you are awake, only when you sleep this clay is free to express itself in a number of ways unrestrained by sensory input. The brain already has what it takes and 'knows' enough to invent its own realities for the ego to experience. To sum up what I've said, when you are awake, you perceive the real world that you share with other sentient beings (who also perceive it). In your sleep, you perceive illusory worlds - these don't exist anywhere else but in your head.
Consciousness, like life on Earth, emerged and evolved by chance. There could have been a universe without life/consciousness. A lifeless existent universe without conscious beings, only inanimate objects. In fact, this was the case when the universe was young and had not yet formed the heavier elements, like carbon atoms, which, today, in complex arrangements along with sulphur, phosphorus, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen is what makes life possible.
Consciousness is the epiphenomenon of functioning parts of the brain (check out the promising scientific integration theory for this and the work of Cristof Koch). Kill the brain and consciousness will cease to be permanently. In fact, even while we are alive we can lose consciousness in a number of ways (that's how delicate we are). Trust me, consciousness has been hyped up with a lot of mystical crap over millennia - I know the hype can be appealing - but we now live in a scientific age where there is enough evidence that it is nothing magical and certainly not intrinsic to nature.
The evidence suggests that it is even very likely to arise from complex neural networks and not, as it was recently thought, emergent from quantum mechanics. Yes, the brain, like every other object in the universe, occupies the quantum level, but, it does not exploit its properties when it comes to consciousness any more than electrochemical interactions describe the qualia of existent objects . Consciousness is very much a 'surface' thing arising from an extremely complex system and we can make this a posteriori deduction from experts telling us that quantum states would decohere too quickly in cerebral complexity in a quantum-based one! Whatever the case (even if it were a quantum phenomenon) we are really biological machines which have had enough time to evolve consciousness and it continues to evolve.
Here's a suggestion you can ponder/meditate on: imagine stripping away all your mental faculties, like an onion, and you will see that consciousness is nothing but a brain state, an integration of sensations, a significant sense as it were, and that the self is only an illusion. I'd also suggest reflecting on your definition of consciousness. How can there be this "intrinsic consciousness" in unconsciousness? Are inanimate objects conscious? No. It doesn't make sense, does it? Either something is living or non-living. Conscious or unconscious. Existent or non-existent. Dream or reality. Are we speaking the same language here?
Science must also accept that the universe existed even before the "Big Bang" otherwise you could always say, "but what came before that?" So for me it's also logical then to also believe that consciousness always existed.
You can argue all you want that a "non-objective universe" is not science, but rather some sort of new-age philosophy. However, the fact remains that scientists are the ones proving it. There is no objective reality at the quantum level, this is an established science fact, not a philosophic theory. Please tell me about some experiments that have been done at the quantum level that dispute that fact, I'd really like to read about them.
I highly recommend that you read Brian Cox's The Quantum Universe
. It will dispel all the tripe that pseudoscience laces it with and will give you the real science behind it. The quantum level is weird but not at all magical. It will help you to understand what is going on with decoherence and why the Uncertainty principle is. Seriously, read it. Also, the universe, at least the one that we know, could have arisen from nothingness- this nothingness, of course, cannot be an absolute zero because absolute nothingness between two objects would mean that they are in reality stuck together.
The nothingness of a void (or physical nothingness) teems with quantum particles and is analogous to a zero followed by a dot and decimal places. In other words, if there is distance between two objects there is a "something". You can multiply an absolute zero by any number and you will always get zero but if that zero is followed by decimals it will soon become a whole number. Hence, the quantum excitations in the beginning could have popped significant and palpable energy into being (more precisely on our scale). Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaB-zq864-c
But I will agree that the Big Bang was not the beginning of everything - only our universe. Some physicists have suggested that the Big Bang was a "Big Bounce" from another universe and there may be more universes in a vast expansion of space also popping in and out of existence like bubbles in boiling water. It is also feasible that universes of different frequencies are superimposed on ours, like in the "Many-worlds interpretation" of quantum theory - although I think collapsing the wave-function with measurement suffices in explanation but I don't want to get into that.
Still, logically, I think there was a beginning for everything (not the one that occurred 13.75 billion years ago) but one that happened so long ago that it is now impossible to determine exactly what happened as all traces are long gone.