According to former Oxford philosopher Keith Ward in More Than Matter?*

“The basic character of reality is

   MIND or CONSCIOUSNESS.”

If so, how does it affect the way we think?

And the way we think about science?

 

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Humans have powerful, private, reflective minds.

Here’s 9 things we’re** pretty sure of about human minds:

(1)  They didn’t exist at the beginning of the universe.

(2)  Minds are “housed” in physical brains.

(3)  Minds came into existence in one of two ways***:

(a)  Whatever causes them to work accidentally and randomly evolved over time from energy and “atomic small parts.”

(b)  They were created and put into brains by a larger and more powerful mind.

(4)  A human mind and “human consciousness” are about the same thing****.

(5)  Human minds can value things, rejoice, worry, fear, desire, dream, wonder, and be curious about, contemplate the past, the present, and plan for the future, and many other things science can never meaningfully evaluate.

(6)  Science cannot–most likely can never–explore in a meaningful way the complex networking of human consciousness.

(7)  The mind, though real and directed by a brain, cannot be “weighed,” photographed, or otherwise measured.

(8)  The mind of a person is basically what (or who) a person is, not the physical brain.

(9)  It’s human minds, as hard as it may be to “picture” them, that allow real science and technology to take place.

To say it again:

Humans must have powerful, private, reflective minds even to begin to do science. And as humans put into action their wonderful brains, they can, and do, make accurate and repeatable observations. They also can organize and evaluate these observations, record them, share them, and put them to useNo animal species even comes close to possessing and using such skills*****.

Consider this (sample) technological marvel that came out of curiosity and hard work:

(1)  HUMAN AIR/SPACE TRAVEL (motorized)

WHEN    TRAVELERS     DISTANCE    DESTINATION        COMMENT

1903              1                  852 ft.         Earth to Earth        1st powered flight

1969              3            240,000 mi.      Earth to Moon        safe round-trip

In fewer than 65 years, “wingless” humans, driven by many reasons, accomplished this.

Or consider this summary of minds at work:

(2)  STORAGE OF INFORMATION

Humans, who previously depended upon libraries made of concrete and steel, and (paper) “card catalogs” listing thousands of hardbound paper records stored on hundreds of shelves, now can quickly store and access information previously found in these records electronically on devices the size of a package of gum. Or in a “cloud” that is “up or out there,” tethered by the hands of a talented few (often difficult to identify and locate).

Or this:

(3)  NEW SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES

Modern science, largely due to the ease of the above, has made many advances in learning about people and things that have led to better health, better food, better housing and transportation, lifestyles with more opportunities, and longer lifespans.

Or some new possibilities for trouble:

(4)  ELECTRICAL VULNERABILITY

Humans, who previously lived without electricity, are now overwhelmingly dependent on it. An extended interruption of electrical power would not only kill millions of “modern” people in urban areas who depend on air conditioning, but would shut off food supplies and radically transform business, and livelihoods that depend upon monetary exchange. (I touch upon this, especially effects of EMP****** in my novel, Earth Is Not Alone.)

(5)  POSSIBILITES OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Humans, who previously could terrorize and viciously kill within small areas, now with modern technology can do so in much larger areas, not only killing people but the land they live on for many centuries. There’s the possibilities of nuclear warfare, nuclear terrorism, bacterial warfare, and chemical poisoning that were unheard of a century ago. (I see no point of more details here.)

One could go on and on.

Now the brains that house minds…

They, of course, continually receive and send electrical signals through the nervous system, and control all human behavior. In our last post we mentioned how the brain interpreted light waves and identified the color of an object. And that without the reflection of light from an object, it would be colorless. We mentioned, too, the similar kind of experience with “observing” taste, sound, temperature, and “wetness.” Without humans on the scene, these characteristics simply do not exist.

Many materialists, who “start” with brains not minds, would extend the mechanics of this much further.

To them, every human feeling, action, thought, and pattern of thought  is triggered, or “determined,” or controlled by the same kind of electrical signals received by the sense organs that detect what is seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched.

And the role of the mind, or consciousness in all this?

Not much.

You see, they consider the brain is a machine. And what we call the mind is essentially an illusion, not real at all. We like to think we have a say in determining what we do, materialists say, but we’re fooling ourselves. We don’t. There’s no “chooser” in our consciousness to determine or overrule anything.

We disagree.

This is pushing science too far past what we know (scientifically).

Keith Ward puts it this way: No one can “observe the thought or image I am having….The content of a thought–what it is about–cannot be detected by observation of physical activity in my brain. It can, however, be detected by me, though obviously not by observing my own brain and not by observing any portion of physical space.”*******

The “me” above is one’s private human consciousness (or mind). About many things it can choose. The result:

I can make good choices.

I can make practical choices.

I can make evil choices.

I can make random choices (using a random number generator if I have to prove this). I can even wonder about, and write fiction about, what Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong might say to each other over a cup of coffee.

No science can prove that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t.

It’s up to me. I can look anywhere for advice–if I want to.

[In our next post we say a bit more about what Ward says about the precious consciousness that he says is so real and that we all possess.]

_______________________

More Than Matter? What Humans Really Are (Lion, 2010).

** This is adozenseconds’s 9 points. Don’t blame this on Ward.

***Arguing which is better is not our purpose here. But these are the two choices.

**** Though often used for the same purpose, “mind” sometimes emphasizes the machinery, or repository of information while “consciousness” emphasizes the “awareness” of sensations or thoughts.

***** We will not enter–here–into the complicated unique behaviors that distinguish humans from other creatures. We may later. Our point is that huge differences exist.

****** “EMP” stands for electromagnetic pulse, a force that can destroy microcircuitry and, in some cases it’s feared, the entire electrical power grid. You can Google “EMP” for more, or read the “sample Chapter 2″ from my novel, Earth Is Not Alone.

*******More Than Matter?