Friday, March 26, 2010

Why a non-physical consciousness is a logical consequence


Consider the brain in the physicalist perspective. Whichever philosophical theory of the mind you adhere to; whether you think consciousness can be fully reducible to the atomic state of the brain; whether you think that downwards and upwards causation act in unison; whether you think consciousness is epiphenomenal of different quarters of by themselves unconscious quasi-awareness generated by the brain; nowhere can the ontic anomaly of psi-phenomena be married.

There exist two mutually exclusive (albeit simplistic) stances on consciousness. Consciousness is caused by the brain or it isn’t. I will attempt to show that the existence of psi phenomena cannot coexist with the former stance, as if it could, various ridiculous circumstances would have to be able to occur that contradict repeated observation and subsequent theories.

For the purposes of successful discourse and reasoning it will be assumed that the physicalist perspective is correct, and as such the brain causes consciousness. It will also be assumed that there exists sufficient data for both psi phenomena and the OBE segment of NDEs that validates it as a very real and existent phenomena. The scope of this article will not be proof oriented, the opinion of the author is that the literature is very clear as to the only logical conclusion that can be derived.


To show that psi phenomena cannot co-exist with this stance, we must also show that said stance cannot co-exist with the following different categories of psi phenomena. Namely, we must show that a physicalist consciousness cannot:

(A) Cause: For the physicalist perspective to remain valid, Brain-Mind can have a causal influence on a separate quantum system, such as influencing the radioactive decay that causes aberrations from chance in random number generator (RNG) intention experiments. .

(B) Sort & Receive: For the physicalist perspective to remain valid, Brain-Mind can receive coherent information that the brain would deem relevant to itself, and has an organising process that is able to sift through unwanted information and only present desired or relevant information in an understandable way to itself, such as in the Remote Viewing (e.g. Ganzfeld), presentiment and remote starting experiments.

(C) Exist outside of the brain: For the physicalist perspective to remain valid, Brain-Mind can have an awareness centrepoint outside of the body with the ability to gather information not available through usual sensory means. The veracity of this assertion lies in the veridical cases of the OBE segment of NDEs.

To prove that consciousness cannot be caused by the brain if psi phenomena are to exist, we must foremost amalgamate (A), (B) and (C) with the materialist perspective. A failure to do so would allude to a break in the physical causal chain that physicalism rests upon wherein a non-physical element is required. As a rigorous epistemic proofing with access to limited variables as defined by our current understanding in the sciences is, by definition, impossible, this will not be attempted. However, what will be attempted is to provide reasons as to why such an amalgamation is blasphemous to both reason and common sense and as such should be discarded as even a remote possibility. This argument will test the limits and applicability of inductive and deductive logic on speculation of ontic consequences.

Argument 1 Case A - The argument of meaningless difference

First, let us consider the dynamics of a typical RNG experiment then appose it to what’s occurring during the experiment. The only variable that has changed that could endear a long-term change in the output of the RNG is the state of consciousness, or more accurately (given the presupposed assumption), the quantum/particle state of the brain. What is the fundamental difference between the particle state of the brain preceding and during the experiment? There exists none. It is not logical to suppose that minor displacements of electrons among different neural nets whilst intention is being directed at the RNG could have a causal influence upon quantum decay responsible for the RNG output in the intended direction. While this is an extreme over-simplification as to the complex functioning of the brain, it is not problematic in that it fulfills the task of reasoning without deviating from accepted Neurobiological axioms. As the afore-stated scenario is nonsensical, two possibilities remain: there exists an elusive and as of yet unobserved something that does not include wave-particles, fields and absolute space that the derives order from the brain such that the brain can cause an information trasnfer, or - consciousness is non-physical.

Argument 2 Case A - The argument of information

Let’s for a moment assume that the preceding argument has no validity. Let’s assume that the brain’s ability to causally influence separate systems is axiomatic. A problem arises if this is true: the brain has to arrange in such a way as to cause a coherent information transfer into a separate system (e.g. ‘into’ an RNG). For this to be possible, the information that summates our brain-mind has to be able to cohere with the information that comprises a quantum “thing”. This is evidently ridiculous, as the information in consciousness is caused by preceding brain states, it is not absolute information, it is pseudo-information, only coherent to the biological system with which it's associated. The information that forms the basis of a quantum "thing" is demonstrably different. Even if a process existed that allowed for an information transfer between the brain and a separate system, we immediately hit another brick wall of similar density: the information in consciousness, that can be safely said to be the arrangement of wavicles in the brain (assuming a hard reductionism approach is possible), is markedly different from the information that comprises a quantum system. It is easily argued that it is astronomically more likely that a Windows 7 application could be successfully installed on an MS DOS computer, as the apposition of the difference in information between these two systems is less than that between the information that comprises an epiphenomenal consciousness and the quantum state of a separate system. From this alone, we are given very safe grounds to suppose that consciousness is non-physical.

Furthermore, this provides an equally compelling refutation against materialist quantum mind theories. Simply because the wave function reduction or collapse may play a crucial role in the generation of consciousness and the processing of information in the brain does not mean the information that arises in this consciousness on the macro level differs in type from the information generated in a Neurobiological-typical brain wherein the wave function reduction plays a role in the periphery. The extreme juxtaposition of information differences between the separate quantum system (RNG) and the content of epiphenomenal consciousness is no different.

Argument 3 Case A - The argument of common sense.

The following argument is not designed to be epistemologically rigorous; rather, it is intended to incite thought. Consider the physicist’s universe, one that follows laws. Planets move in orbit according to Einsteinian geometry - wave functions evolve according to the Schrödinger equation. Everything is working well. Why would the universe follow set law until the moment humans (or, animals) evolve? What could give the human brain the ability to break this universal trend, to break physical law? We could ask what enables single-celled organisms to elicit non-determined behaviour in the universe. Most people would reasonably assert this feat to be impossible. Why, then, shouldn’t this same assumption be applied to humans? Simply because the human brain is more conceptually complex than the workings of a single-celled organism should have no ontic consequences in the formulation of our expectations as to the capabilities and limitations of this brain in its ability of causally influencing separate systems.

Argument 4 Case B

If a materialist brain can access information not available to it through the five senses, some process has to exist to make this so. Be it a query/response feature of the brain in conjunction with an intimate connection with yet unidentified information fields within the universe, or some other process. Such a process cannot occur with a physicalist brain. The foremost reason being that one side of the process has to incite said process with the other side. Either, the brain has to somehow elicit an intimate connection with a mysterious computational force inherent to the universe or said force has to incite a reverse connection with the materialist brain. The author believes both these up-down and down-up assertions are self-evidently ridiculous - such a process requires some linking of the pseudo-information generated by consciousness (as discussed in Argument 2) and any absolute, quantum information in a fundamental information field.

Assuming this unlikelihood was possible; if the brain could retrieve this information from some universal information source, the processing and disbursement - the computation and dissemination of this information has to be carried out somehow. Such a mammoth task could not be carried out by the biological brain; the sorting of the astronomical amounts of quantum information in the universe to localise on the tiny segment of space-time happening(s) that is relevant to the organism would require near infinite processing capabilities. Since the brain cannot do it, we must assume a universal force is doing it. What process could possibly exist that would give the materialist brain the power to tap into this magnificent computing power that preceded its existence?

Such ridiculous propositions have to be satisfied before (A) and (B) can be amalgamated. If the afore-said arguments are not true, the materialist brain cannot account for psi phenomena and consciousness is non-physical.

Argument5 Case C

For the physicalist perspective to remain valid, we must amalgamate the fact that the brain is causing consciousness, yet at the same time this consciousness can receive sensory perceptions of which the brain cannot garner from the 5 senses. That is, the brain has to cause consciousness and at the same time the brain has to be able to gather ordered information not inclusive of the photons entering the eye, soundwaves entering the ear-drum, electric impulses resulting from nerve stimulation, et cetera. All foundational axioms of every physicalist mind theory would refute this as impossible. Perhaps the argument can be made that the materialist brain is causing a field that stretches out through space which has the ability to pick up sensory information available to the field by mere incidence that said information exists among the field. Although, apart from having no observational reason to expect such an argument to be true, one has to question how such coherent, vivid, and most importantly accurate information can be garnered from this consciousness-field during periods of time where the ability of the brain to function appears to be severely incapacitated (Holden, Greyson and James 2009).


Since all of mainstream scientific conclusions categorically deny any real possibility of phenomena like this, and as all of mainstream science rests upon the physicalist doctrine, when viewing this phenomena alone without reference to any other data, a Bayesian Inference to either the materialistic explanatory model for any one of these phenomena or the non-physical explanatory model for this phenomena have a 50/50 probability chance of being correct as they both refute the conclusions of science (and thus observation) to the exact same extent – they both call for a complete redefinition of science. Anyone that argues against this does so from a subjective position, if two explanations of the same phenomena overturn science to the same extent, from the outset they have an equal probability of being correct no matter the ontic consequences if a certain explanatory model was correct.

Given this logic, the only reasonable conclusion becomes clear. It is said that if you are to personally observe one white crow, you have disproven the black crow theory (although, in science you must demonstrate numerous white crows to disprove the rightly held scientific paradigm. (Smith, XXXX)). If one was to extend this analogy to the question of “Do white crows exist?”, a physicalist's difficult time of explaining away psi phenomena can be adequately represented. The aforementoined physicalist refutations of psi and OBE phenomena can be rightly viewed as going hunting for every crow on earth in order to induce that white crows don't exist, yet at the same time requiring the discovery of orange, pink and purple crows, with each different colour corresponding to a different physicalist explanation that contravenes scientific axioms in the same way that a non-physical explanation does. Yet, inferencing that a non-physical explanation is correct is analogous to going hunting for every crow on earth to prove that a white crow exists with the only requirement being the discovery of a white crow.

Another way of conceptualising this argument lies in adressing the same question. The physicalists' requirement for the proof of their explanatory models is homogeneous to the requirement that numerous white crows are caught – they must explain how the brain can cause an as of yet undetected field that experiences enhanced mentation during times of arresting brain conditions, how the brain can inject nondeterminancy into a separate system, how the brain can receive ordered information from the universe that directly relates to that organism as significant, how the brain which is composed of pseudo-information communicate with the fundamental information of matter and energy, yet the non-physical argumentation requires only one white crow to be caught, whilst not requiring the refutation of any observations, only the redefinition of them into a more wholistic framework.

We must thus make a Bayesian Inference and apply Ockham's Razor and conclude that the data tells us quite clearly that consciousness is non-physical.

I think that the given reasons provide sufficient grounds for one that is already satisfied with the weight of psi evidence to conclude with a high degree of confidence that consciousness isn’t a byproduct of the brain. If this conclusion is wrong, as has been discussed, a large number of our well accepted axioms based on confirmed observation would have to be redefined or scrapped. William Ockham would undoubtedly have a passionate hate for us if we were to consider this possibility over its only alternative.


  1. Well yes. Materialism and psi really can't coexist to any extent. It boils down to a modus tollens, really.

    1) If Materialism, then Not Psi (as per lacking any material mechanism for anomalous transfer)
    2) Psi
    3) Therefore, Not Materialism.

    Existence of psi totally dismantles the current view of Naturalist Reductionist Materialism, and seriously puts a damper on the whole Secular Humanist movement (which, frankly disgusts me in the way they want to convert EVERYONE to S.H.). Logically, these exact people are the most resistant to psi evidence.

    We parapsychologists just have to keep on chugging.

  2. Yeah I'd agree with you on every point. I have one philosophy: make conclusions from the data. All those groups you mentioned seem to ignore this.

  3. Well, duh, the Committee for Skeptical Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal was made to basically pooh-pooh psi research and tell us how crazy we apparently are. The only sensible one of the bunch was the late Carl Sagan, who said essentially, "There is a lot of bogus crap out there, but there may be something to the whole psi thing."

    I would think though, that in the 150+ years that skeptics have been whining about psi research, they would have come up with better arguments than "There is no data," "It's experimental artifacts," and the old standby, "Fraud."

    We've backed Hyman into a corner and got him to cough up, "Well, it's not any of those three," and we threw enough data at Wiseman to get him to say, "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that [psi] is proven."

    They wanna move the goalposts? I say, let em. We're learning about psi the whole way along, eventually we'll put together the most airtight set of experiments the world of science has ever seen, just because we have centuries of constructive criticism under our belt.

  4. Yes. I can't wait to see what the next few decades delivers.

  5. I think the blogger will find my project of very great interest.