Friday, February 8, 2013

Is God Data?

John Searle
Here is an interesting formulation that comes to unseat an implausible theory. In the course of demolishing Christof Koch’s, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist in The New York Review of Books (“Can Information Theory Explain Consciousness,” TNYRB, 1/10/13) the philosopher John Searle makes the following point. “mental phenomena can be ontologically subjective but still admit of a science that is epistemically objective. You can have an epistemically objective science of consciousness even though it is an ontologically subjective phenomenon.” Translation you can talk scientifically about what goes on inside the head. Searle describes Koch as a friend, but one wonders how their friendship will fare after this review? Searle is a monist who believes consciousness is a "biological phenomenon" that can be explained just as we do “digestion or photosynthesis.” Any modestly humanistic person, even one who believes in God, will buy Searle’s idea. God may exist, but we don’t have to take the Cartesian view that makes consciousness a product of a divine spirit. We know too much about the brain to have to need God. God isn’t a necessity. Still there is one unsettling aporia here and it relates to the advent of artificial intelligence, another subject Searle has written about. Let’s say consciousness can exist without the body, in a computer for example. Let’s say we have a cybernetic form of consciousness that has no relation to biology. Rejoice all you closet dualists. The information bits that Searle trashes, the “panpsychism" that Koch argues for, may show that what we know as mind can exist without the body. God (whatever he, she, it is), it turns out, may lie in the data.

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