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As an atheist or agnostic, are you comfortable with the idea that consciousness may be beyond human understanding? I'm not. This is the so-called "hard problem" of neuroscience and philosopy of course: how can a physical brain produce what seems to be non-physical? Any thoughts?

GarytheGondolier 6 Sep 11

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Does consciences get old with age? My mind does. I’m 78 years old, but I can transpose myself to the time when I was about an 8 or 9 year old kid jumping off our garage roof with a blanket with my friends pretending it was a parachute. I can’t remember their names, but I am in that moment - feelings and all. I have to believe memory and consciousness are separate. The Bible tells us that when we get to heaven we will get a new body like Jesus has - the ability to eat, travel at the speed of thought, pass through walls and locked doors. What is it that gets a new body. I think our new body will be wrapped around our consciousness.

At the same time there is scene in another universe (Heaven) where God removes our tears and our memory. If not, how could one spend eternity in Paradise with God & Christ and at the same time remember former abuses, debasements, depravations, etc? I think memory and consciousness are two different things.

When you answer that question, maybe you have an answer for this one: could our soul and consciousness be the same? In the Bible we are told that our souls will live forever - either in Heaven or hell. Wouldn’t it be hell if one were allocated to exist forever in complete darkness, could not forget ones past, or the myriad of opportunities that came across ones life to change their course the direction. Is this what the Bible says that in hell there will be “gnashing of teeth”.


Could you define consciousness? I think consciousness requires a brain. But if your definition differs from the one I have in mind, as more of a spiritual or soul-type entity, then I can see how our conclusions will differ.

I absolutely agree with you that, as far as we know, consciousness requires a brain. I like this definition: "Consciousness refers to your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and environment." (Cherry, Kendra. "Consciousness Is the Psychology of Awareness." Very Well Mind. 10 June 2019). The "hard problem" though, is to explain how the brain (a physical organ) produces consciousness (a seemingly non-physical phenomenon.


Conscious awareness seems to be beyond human understanding as we currently think. Maybe someday we will learn new methods, but my personal opinion is that consciousness can not be explained in terms of physical processes. The new methods will have to embrace an entirely new world view.

Edwin Schrodinger:

“Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”


"what seems to be non-physical" - I'm not sure that's actually a thing.

How about "immaterial" then? Thought appears to have neither mass nor volume. As far as I know.

@GarytheGondolier Just like energy, which by the way is what powers the brain. See the connection? No pun intended.

@Bobby9, @GarytheGondolier and energy is a thing. It is observable and measurable. And with advances in fMRI and PET technology, so is thought, albeit crudely at this early stage.

@MrBeelzeebubbles But has no mass, an no volume (really the same thing) and that was my point.

Abstract thought


There’s plenty beyond our current understanding and I’m ok with that. Consciousness is just one of the things and I’m fine with that. There’s no evidence that’s it’s something more than an evolved thought process and I’m cool with that. It’s not an interesting problem to me actually. The only arguments I ever hear made against consciousness being just a byproduct of our physical evolution is personal incredulity. We all know that is a logical fallacy.

One of the interesting questions is how thought emerges from evolution.

@GarytheGondolier I can see how that’s interesting but it doesn’t really capture my imagination. What I really like learning about is related though. I love learning about the way our brains get things wrong because of the way they evolved. There’s a great podcast I used to listen to called “you are not so smart” there might be some episodes that pertain to your interests.


Being an atheist I am quite comfortable with the idea that a lot of things are beyond our understanding. Consciousness may be one of these things between heaven and earth...
I still do not believe that the sciences have explained consciousness, as Dennett or the Churchlands argue, I still think that there is mystery in this phenomenon. I do not believe in some sort of 'ghost in the machine' or res cogitans ontologically different from res extensa. The strange fact of consciousness teaches me that there is more to what we call 'matter' than we know, that 'matter' certainly has aspects that are closer to what we call 'mind' than made of solid little atoms that bump into each other.


Yes and no.

Yes, I would agree that consciousness is most certainly beyond the HUMAN understanding. Humans are walking bombs of illogical thinking, most cannot understand statistics or advanced math, and rarely do humans take the best paths due to egotism, greed, etc.

No, I think that we are approaching a point where, once transhumanism (the blending of human and machine) really takes hold, we really will be able to understand consciousness. A computer can house huge amounts of data, and perform calculations that the whole of humanity, put together, would take millions of years to do.

Years ago, I had a discussion with a chemistry professor in college . . . it was more of an argument, but my assertation was that some day in the relatively near future, computers would be able to store whole books. It is way beyond that now . . . .

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