Conscious Nonsense

Humbug

I am deeply disturbed to discover what a search on the word “consciousness” produces when you sift through WordPress websites.

Over 90% of the entries reveal websites which can only be described as embarrassing, superstitious and pathetically inadequate.  You would have thought that in the 21st Century most of us in the civilized and educated West would have ditched charlatanism in favour of reason and science. And, yes, philosophy. Which of course has had to change much over the centuries as old superstitions were revealed to be humbug and utter hogwash.

Surely to god we are grown up enough to ditch faith healing nutters, snakeoil salesmen and gurus? Even the Buddhists (god bless their yellow robed non-existent atman) are embracing modern science and co-operating with neurosurgeons to establish the neural correlates of the meditative state.

And yet here are some of the headlines and articles to be found on WordPress:

“You are inherently and innately programmed to thrive on all levels of your being” – yeah right, man. Flower power, airy fairy crap. Give me a pill any day. Tell me how qualia work in precise physical terms and how I can move from one end of the pleasure pain axis to the other.

“There is always a counter to the negative. Call them spiritually and technologically advanced ETs, Angels, Ascended Masters etc. “. Yep, well there are fairies at the bottom of my garden and I’m not talking about LGBT+++ neighbors. I mean grow up you lunatic.

“There is a different path of healing, a path, that keeps the balance, a path, that enhances intuition, re ignites love, my answer to this is touch massage….” Great well I’ll just check that out with my GP. Hey, I’m all for meditation and yoga. I’m all for anything, even magic mushrooms, if it works. But I’d like to skip the semi religious twaddle thanks. Metaphor is fine but if I’m feeling like a dead wet hamster in a washing machine I’d like something a little more efficacious than “touch massage” to make me feel better.

Ooh – hang on a minute! I wonder what she is offering? Nah, I’m way too old for all that stuff.

Oh dear. As usual this is turning into polemic so I must stop myself right away.

I have no doubt most (but certainly not all) of these internet messiah’s honestly believe they have found “The Way”.  And I love metaphor and poetry and music and art and…..blah blah.  And yes sometimes it improves my mood.

But if I want to read about consciousness I want to read Dennet, Chalmers, Tononi. I want to hear it from the neuro-scientists. The Blue Brain Project. Sure even my sagacious GP, if he feels he has anything to say.  I do not wish to hear from a bunch of deluded nutcases who can not see from one end of their  “chakra” to their waste pipe.

The answer is simple of course: ignore them and move on to wiser counsel without causing offense and upset.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Your concern about the character of the conversation about consciousness is warranted to be sure, and it is a bit disheartening to scan the current offerings when you do a search on WordPress on the subject, for all the reasons that you brought up, but the real problem stems from the fact that they clump all these blogs together simply based on the authors use of the word “consciousness,” and not necessarily the content of the writing. It does require the earnest seeker to wade through a host of irrelevant content in order to land upon something useful and oriented toward serious contemplation of a complex subject.

    The diversity of approaches to understanding and attempting to explain our subjective experience is also a consequence of its complexity and current status as profoundly mysterious, even to those who prefer a scientific or materialist view. Part of our nature as sentient human beings is a tendency to allow our minds to wander off into conjecture when faced with inexplicable phenomena, which can be problematic when we wander into fantastical or imaginary realms instead of applying more rational or reasonable approaches which have produced results in previous investigations. Even philosophers are sometimes criticized for thinking “outside the box,” like David Chalmers, but at least when we “push the envelope” as it were, we are at least starting from a solid foundation and pressing outward. Most of the fringe elements you cite are not based on any sort of solid footing, but still offer an alternative view which finds an audience among those with less rigorous standards.

    I appreciate very much your interest in my blog and strive always to present a more balanced and considered worldview, and base the expression of many of my ideas as a result of personal experiences and serious contemplation of how both the scientific and philosophic communities have addressed the relevant subject matter. It seems to me that the best remedy for countering the snake oil salesmen is to present the ideas of serious thinkers and great writers along with my own ideas from decades of subjective experiences and serious study.

    I’m going to follow along here as well…..Regards…John H.

    1. Your website is erudite and yet eminently readable. And I would not totally disagree with your views as to “divinity” of some sort. I find the doctrine of pantheism and that of panpyschism of great interest for instance. I very much look forward to engaging you in conversation over the coming months.

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