Modern neuroscience and pharmacology has made it clear that the mind originates from the brain. No theory of physics can be complete unless it accounts for consciousness as a fundamental property arising from matter. Is there any place for consciousness in present models of physics, e.g. the Standard Model?
closed as off-topic by ACuriousMind♦, Steeven, John Rennie, Mike, jinawee Jun 14 '16 at 16:54
This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:
- "We deal with mainstream physics here. Questions about the general correctness of unpublished personal theories are off topic, although specific questions evaluating new theories in the context of established science are usually allowed. For more information, see Is non mainstream physics appropriate for this site?." – ACuriousMind, Steeven, Mike, jinawee
The goal of fundamental physics, such as the Standard Model, is somewhat reductionist: we're trying to understand the world by studying the most elementary building blocks and their interactions.
You appear to object that this approach may struggle explain more complicated emergent phenomena and experiences, such as consciousness. Certainly, it would be extremely difficult to understand most large systems, let alone a brain, in terms of their most fundamental building blocks, like quarks and electrons.
I'm not sure, though, that just because such calculations are intractable, it implies that the theory is incomplete. Rather, it suggests that it makes more sense to study phenomena with objects and quantities appropriate to that energy or length scale. For the brain that might be neurons and synapses, rather than electrons and quarks.
Is there any place for consciousness in present models of physics, e.g. the Standard Model?
Searle says: probably. Penrose says: not in its present form. Chalmers and Tononi say: no, never. Dennet says: what consciousness?
To elaborate, here is a brief summary of modern thinking regarding how consciousness fits into the material world (as interpreted by me):
Dan Dennett regards consciousness as just a very powerful illusion that essentially requires no scientific explanation because it's not scientifically observable. He therefore dismisses the very existence of the hard problem of consciousness.
John Searle strongly disagrees with Dennett, arguing that consciousness is a part of reality, while maintaining that it can nevertheless be understood in terms of material processes. He compares consciousness to any other biological process, like digestion or photosynthesis.
David Chalmers argues that consciousness cannot be explained in terms of the material world; that even if you had complete knowledge of brain structure (at any scale) you would not be able to predict the emergence, or comprehend the nature, of qualia. Instead, he postulates that science will need to expand its axioms, possibly to include consciousness as some sort of fundamental unit of existence.
Giulio Tononi agrees with Chalmers and has attempted to put this idea on a scientific footing in his IIT, a theory for which Max Tegmark is a fan.
Roger Penrose suspects that consciousness can be explained in terms of the material world but that it is non-computable and will require a quantum theory of gravity to be understood.
The question is very relevant today because of the recent advances in artificial intelligence. Various authors claim different numbers, but it is highly likely that we will have robots by 2030 with an intelligence superior to ours, if the estimates of computational power of the human brain are correct. And of course the question remains if these machines will be conscious or not.
What follows is my personal view which is line with one of the lines mentioned by lemon in his excellent answer:
As some of the comments and answers mentioned, this has nothing to to with standard model, the standard model is the minimal description from which you should be able to calculate all the other properties of the universe, including emergent ones. The only one that will remain beyond explanation is the issue of consciousness, if by consciousness you refer to the concept of qualia. Qualia is entirely subjective, say, what is the difference between our perception of blue as opposed to yellow? nobody has yet been able to imagine an experiment that can tell if your perception of yellow is like my perception of blue and viceverza. And it is my position that this will remain so forever. If your position is other than Dennett's (that consciousness does not exist and is just an illusion) we must accept that consciousness is just an emergent property that not only cannot be explained, but not even described. I see it as basic element of our universe, that emerges under unknown circumstances, does not influence any behavior, and thus will always escape any experimental measure.
NOTE: above I have assumed as (perhaps) most philosophers that qualia does not influence behaviour, any other aspects of our behaviors that are usually put in the same bag of consciousness, such as self awareness, are measurable and have a mechanistic explanation in terms of computational processes.