Theories of everything: A theory of everything must address consciousness, says prof
A new theory of the universe outlined by Wake Forest University medicine prof Robert Lanza, called biocentrism, addresses the implications of failure to include our own consciousness in our understanding of the world:
Neuroscientists have developed theories that might help to explain how separate pieces of information are integrated in the brain and thus succeed in elucidating how different attributes of a single perceived object—such as the shape, color, and smell of a flower—are merged into a coherent whole. These theories reflect some of the important work that is occurring in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but they are theories of structure and function. They tell us nothing about how the performance of these functions is accompanied by a conscious experience; and yet the difficulty in understanding consciousness lies precisely here, in this gap in our understanding of how a subjective experience emerges from a physical process.
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Physicists believe that the theory of everything is hovering right around the corner, and yet consciousness is still largely a mystery, and physicists have no idea how to explain its existence from physical laws. The questions physicists long to ask about nature are bound up with the problem of consciousness. Physics can furnish no answers for them.
Lanza argues, essentially, that attempts to understand the universe through physics and chemistry alone are doomed by the quantum mechanical nature of life. Interesting reading!
From what I can tell, most materialists are not so much looking for a way to understand consciousness (self, soul, free will, et cetera) as a way to define it out of existence or effectiveness. The fact that they want their biggest problem to be just dismissed as a myth shows the size of the challenge they face in dealing with it. Go here, here, and here for a few examples.
Check out The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary (Harper 2007).