Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Quantum Fluctuation Fields and Conscious Experience: How Neurodynamics Transcends Classical and Quantum Mechanics

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Quantum Fluctuation Fields and Conscious Experience: How Neurodynamics Transcends Classical and Quantum Mechanics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Science has long treated the subject of phenomenal experience as an insoluble mystery, and been hostile to attempts to provide a scientific explanation for it. Part of the problem has been a misunderstanding of the word 'objective': science must remain objective. Some scientists interpret this to mean that science should therefore not be concerned with any question of how the world of subjectivity is supported in biology. But that constitutes a misunderstanding of the word 'objective', which really means that scientists should remain intellectually detached, and not be too attached to their preconceptions, when science progresses in ways that change them.

Until quite recently, the conundrum presented to science by the phenomenon of experience was considered insoluble. Although many were convinced of the reality of experience and recognised that its explanation should be considered a potential scientific problem, they also recognized that neither classical physics not quantum physics were able to provide it. (Chalmers, 1997b) Classical physics describes entities in purely objective terms and is a non-starter. Quantum physics on the other hand seemed to involve consciousness at its foundations, and seemed more promising. This is because, in quantum physics, it was recognized that the phenomenon of 'the collapse of the wave function' requires an observer, with the ability to subjectively record and report an event. However, if an observer's consciousness is to collapse a wave-function, or put more accurately, 'reduce a packet of wave functions' (shortened to 'reduce the wave packet') then something other than quantum wave functions must be involved, because quantum functions cannot accomplish this.

In the 1990's the situation completely changed when a student of philosophy, David Chalmers, published first his PhD thesis, a series of papers in the then new Journal of Consciousness Studies (Chalmers, 1995, 1996, 1997a), and then a book (Chalmers, 097b). Next the scientific community held a conference on his new approach, and all the comments and Chalmers' responses were edited into a book by the JCS Editor, Jonathan Shear (Shear, 1997). Chalmers identified the phenomenon of experience itself as the main challenge confronting any aspiring theory of consciousness, and set out four conditions that any physical theory of experience would have to satisfy, two of which are discussed in the next paragraph. (Chalmers, 1997a, Reprinted in Shear, 1997)

First, he posited that the experiencer, the subject, should be considered as fundamental a concept in the world of science as mass, or the electric charge. It should be accepted as beyond explanation, and as valid as other fundamental elements in physical science. Chalmers also pointed out that the theory should be non-reductive, and that it should be an information theory where the information possessed a double aspect enabling it not only to represent information, but also to specifically pertain to subjective experience. In the last few years, just such an information theory has been discovered, moreover one which applies in biological regulation.

COMPLEXITY BIOLOGY

Complexity biology dates from Stuart Kauffman's studies of genetic networks in the 1960s (Kauffman, 1969), when he discovered that they operate under a regime that he named 'The Edge of Chaos'. Genes are expressed not singly, but in 'loops' containing several genes, all of which are expressed at the same time. Such 'loops of genes' can induce or repress the expression of other loops of genes. What Kauffman discovered was that especially realistic conditions arise when each such loop acts on average on precisely two other loops of genes. If the number is less than two, then the system becomes static, with little or no change possible in which loops are being expressed, while when the number is more than two, the whole thing becomes unstable and chaotic, with genetic loops constantly being switched on and off. …

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