In the local discussion group referenced previously, as well as dialogue with Andy Smith on free will, it occurred to me that I am quite offended by the notion that by maintaining consciousness is not an epiphenomenon or illusion it is somehow akin to believing in a supernatural God or Cartesian dualism. I too am most interested in providing empirical evidence for my interest in consciousness, hence I'm using the work of neuroscientists like Damasio, Churchland and now Schurger and Dehaene. These are folks that do not accept any sort of Cartesian ghost (quite the contrary), ground their hypotheses in empirical evidence, and provide mounting experimental data to support their theses. Which is, of course, the scientific method, to take what you already know, make educated guesses about the next step, device experimental methods to test it, and to use those results to either confirm or refute the guess. And that is exactly what the above scientists are doing and making considerable progress. I just cannot see how this is holding to some kind of illusory or delusional 'belief.'
With that in mind, let's recall the New Scientist article that made us aware of this new research on Libet. Schurger was quoted as saying
the following, but I don't know the source, since it is not in the referenced paper:
"If we are
correct, then the Libet experiment does not count as evidence
against the possibility of conscious will," says Schurger.
I'm not sure if that particular experiment by Schurger et al.
determined whether the act of moving a finger in response to a command
proved if the "intention" was conscious or nonconscious, since it is
obvious we can have controlled, nonconscious perception and action. But
more complex perception, planning and action does seem to involve
consciousness, and this is what the likes of the recent articles by
Schurger and Dahaene are exploring with experimental tests. (And
Damasio, btw, has done numerous of his own experimental tests and
published them in highly regarded scientific journals. Again, no pulling
illusions out of Cartesian theaters here).
In reference to a more
recent article (2011) from Dehaene, he has conducted a number of
experimental tests on his hypothesis from 2001. He also provided
considerable data from other researchers into the topic, then compares
to this theory. This is science, and these scientists, are not
searching for God or disembodied, ideal minds; they are searching for empirical evidence to explain the
consciousness. And which explanations and evidence is not only mounting
in support of its thesis, but can be highly useful for helping a lot of
people with a lot of problems.