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Video Debate on God and Consciousness

Can consciousness be best explained by God’s existence?

Hamza Tzrotzis section:

Very nice presentation, and I can find agreement with much of it. I do find a problem with the idea that theism explains ‘where consciousness comes from’, since God cannot be said to exist prior to God’s consciousness. Can God be unconscious? If not, can we say for sure that consciousness does not create God instead of the other way around?

This goes along with the sentiment expressed earlier in examining the shortcomings of panpsychism, when he asks ‘what is thought without a thinker?’ While this is certainly difficult to imagine in a normal state of mind, I have experienced dream states in which there was a dream, but it was more like a film, and I woke up specifically noticing that I did not find myself in the movie or in the audience. The experience of the movie simply was. In light of this, and the fact that human beings occupy such a minute and idiosyncratic position within the biosphere of this planet, I would not rule out the possibility that our waking experience of human ego might be limited to animals or certain animals, owing to their autonomy of movement. The vast majority of phenomena in the universe may indeed be felt experiences without an experiencer per se.

Even if this is true, the idea that the universe is composed of consciousness (awareness, or to be more technical, aesthetic participation/sensory-motive re-acquaintance), even proprietary qualities of awareness, but without an overriding executive, there could still be God-like influences within or through the larger potential of our human consciousness. Retrocausality, synchronicity, intuition, and other exotic metaphenomenal conditions may indeed flirt with the boundary between reality and surreality to produce veridical insights and delusional obsessions alike. God may be no more than a figment of consciousness, just as we are, but that doesn’t mean that human consciousness does not include some kind of meta-human guidance for some people at some time, although such guidance may be indistinguishable from mental illness.

Professor Simons section:

Opens well, setting the stage for a criterial of success for explanation in science. I hadn’t heard before the origin of the word melancholia before (black-bile). He goes on to look at intentionality and awareness and asserts that there is nothing that it is like to be a stone. I agree superficially, that what we see of a stone does not express any intention, but given the vastly different scale of time between ourselves and geological time, it is conceivable that what we encounter as static minerals are, within another frame of reference, some unfamiliar kind of experience. Rocks don’t have feelings, but they may *be* feelings – slow, or intermittent feelings which perhaps only awaken when there is a significant change in physical state. When rocks collide, something may feel something, even if it is not the rock itself as we experience it.

I like that he embraces being honest about the shortcomings of science in explaining phenomenality (the Hard Problem). His examples of evolved body parts which have been repurposed could apply to consciousness in theory, but I submit that would have to be a very superficial theory that overlooks the completely anti-physical nature of consciousness. Unlike an ear, awareness is not a plausible feature of some unrelated physical system.

I appreciate Professor Simons call for modesty in consideration of supernatural explanation, but I’m not sure that alone constitutes a refutation. It may be more reckless to insist upon a naturalistic explanation to the exclusion of all explanations which happen to transcend the spatiotemporal aspects of nature.

It seems to me that rather than presuming God as a literal being, we should try thinking of the various theological concepts as a metaphor for being itself – for consciousness. We can learn about consciousness by our own intuitive accounts, written in the native mytho-poetic language of what I call the ‘metaphenomenal’ layer of awareness. God is something like the local, human-shaped shadow of the infinite potential of the future of consciousness. By itself, the universe is only theological and meaningful on the inside. It is up to consciousness, to conscious beings, to imbue the exterior world with divine shades of care and attention. God is not for being, but for becoming.

I liked Simons parting comments about Spinoza and dual-aspect theory. He says, (as most would agree) that consciousness is a process, not a thing. I suggest that consciousness is neither, rather it is the eternal firmament from which processes and things are ‘carved out’ (by time and space…types of entropy or reduced sense). Locally, our human experience is very elaborately enfolded multiple times into spacetime, so that it does actually take on nested process-like characteristics as well. Just as the entire life of our body is the story of a single cell in self-replication/modification, the story of our lives is a single moment stretched out into innumerable sub-moments.

Both critiques of panpsychism I think are ultimately rejections of a straw man. Nobody, Leibniz included I’m sure, thinks that electrons ‘have’ human-like consciousness, but that is completely beside the point, IMO, in considering whether the fabric of nature is more likely sensitive vs physical, information-theoretic, or theological. In those terms, I find it easy to account for physical, informational, and spiritual phenomena as elaborations of sensory experience, but I find no real way to justify any of the others existence in the absence of sense.

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