Like trying to lift the gross national product with a set of tongs

News that the billion-dollar European effort to model the brain in a super-computer is on the verge of collapse comes as no surprize.

It will not fail because, as some neuroscientists claim, it is too narrowly conceived. You have more chance of getting a rocket into outer space by throwing rocks off the back of it. At least that method is consistent with Newtonian physics.

It will fail because consciousness is not neural activity. A hundred thousand neuroscientists claiming otherwise will not make it so. A neural network that “learns” how to count or how to remember will not have awareness.

Awareness is not generated out of material arrangements of matter. It may be received and housed by arrangements of matter we call brains and neurons, but neural activity per se  is not conscious and is not awareness.

I call it a category error, like trying to lift the gross national product with a set of tongs. Cannot in principle be done.

This view strongly contradicts Dawkins, Dennett, Sam Harris, John Searle and other professed atheists. It agrees with the views expressed by David Bentley Hart. To my mind, the atheists of that school cannot even explain awareness, let alone God. Yet I take comfort in a book written by a former practising neurological researcher and physician,  Raymond Tallis: “Aping Mankind”. I do so because Tallis expresses the same view as Hart, that consciousness is some other kind of stuff/energy/thing and it is not material – not the product of matter and its motions. So what? We all know this is plain mysticism, right?  Is Tallis not just another theist? Not so. Tallis is a convinced atheist, a member of Britain’s Humanist Association.

He calls “neuromania” and “darwinitis”, the besetting mental obsessions of our day, and he lays an axe to their foundations. His book has left even some of my unconscious assumptions gutted and hanging from branches.

Tallis’ website is here:

I shall read more of him, and suggest you give him a try too.

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