I had to chuckle when I read the five letters in the June 4 issue taking issue with Michael Graziano ’89 *96’s theory of consciousness (feature, April 23). The usual suspects of the anti-reductionist brigade come out in force whenever there is a serious threat to the “ghost in the machine” ... and all of the extended ramifications of such a belief.
The idea that consciousness is simply a form of observation of cognitive activity originating inside the brain, involving the same integrative mechanisms we use to interpret externally originating sensations through the lens of momentary schemas and long-term worldview to construct perceptions, is compelling to an increasing number of people in the world, and for very good reason.
While the realm of “mystery” in neuroscience is not yet obliterated completely, and may not be in our lifetimes, the progress made in the last few decades pushing in at those boundaries encourages the notion that it may well happen in a finite period of time.
In any case, it seems to me the burden of proof should fall more heavily on those who propose an unnecessary and ad hoc addition to the baseline explanation, and thus ultimately would fall prey to Occam’s razor.
Understanding consciousness empirically never can erode the exquisite beauty of an amazing sunset, or the transcendence of an inspired artistic performance, or the towering scale of a majestic mountain, or anything else that causes us to pay attention to this amazing universe we inhabit. Rather, it would be yet another realization of the profundity of human existence.
Fear not understanding, but instead rush headlong into it with joy and celebration.