In another forum, a discussion was underway around the origins of consciousness. As molecular interactions affected consciousness, it must be a molecular effect, and so forth. I chimed in.
The trick with a question like “if consciousness is a molecular phenomenon” is that we’re asking a fundamental question about who we are. Any number of things, such as the free will vs determinism debate spin off of that. In spite of our considerable advances through science, we have still not been able to answer the fundamental question. This, I think, is largely because we’re not framing it correctly.
Science naturally makes the assumption that because it’s been able to explain much of our natural world, it should be able to explain our part in it. What I’ve discovered in my own research is that current scientific method cannot explain consciousness simply because it’s not an effect of physical phenomenon.
Certainly, because it interfaces with our physiology, changes in molecular interactions, mood, restfulness and so forth change how it is experienced and how we experience ourselves. So the study of the effect of molecular and other interactions on consciousness is certainly valid. But it’s a mistake to assume too much.
Consciousness can be understood but not through typical scientific method. Because it is meta-physical, in the strictest sense of the word, it can only be explored through itself. One can perform systematic, repeatable experiments, but they rely on subjectivity. Objective subjectivity thus requires large numbers of subjective explorations and a framework to place experiences in.
This kind of research has been done in the distant past. Reading such literature has extra challenges due to differences in language, culture, and time. It is also often couched in religious beliefs. But if you can filter that out, what you find is a remarkably similar framework across a number of cultures and ages.
It is however a bit of a rabbit hole. For example, there many not be a single “right” answer to questions like the free will vs determinism debate. In a study of consciousness, the answer may be relative. In other words – it depends. Consciousness is found to have different states, each of which brings with it a different understanding of the world. The obvious ones are waking, dreaming and sleeping but there are also others, plus subsets of the first 3. These different states will lead a person to conclude one or the other as ‘correct’.
For example, do you experience free will or determinism in your dreams? Does this change your response to them? Or do you even remember your dreams? Curiously enough, at a certain point, both free will and determinism are seen to be the same thing, so both become true. (laughs)
D**** also raises another challenge of such a study – illusion. People carry dreams in their waking state as well. These are sometimes structured as beliefs. That can have a considerable impact on their perception of reality. To study consciousness, you are studying the container but the container effects the contents, just as the contents affect the container, as much physiological research has demonstrated. How do you remove the variables? You don’t. Your model has to allow for them.
Another trick is that using mind to contemplate what is beyond it can lead you into paradoxes and looping logic. Very tricky to use mind without being trapped by its own preconceptions. This is because concepts of mind change how consciousness is experienced, just as molecular interactions do. In some ways, more so. We call them beliefs.
As for teenagers and pre-teens, it’s useful to consider that they’re in a different state of consciousness so perceive the world quite differently. Thus they reject your parental state and respond in ways we may find incomprehensible. Yet it makes perfect sense to them. Throw in the hormonal effects and you have the generational divide. (laughs)