November 24, 2009
Last Thursday we made what I felt were some necessary emendations to the cerebro-centric consciousness hypothesis (CCH). Today we’ll do the same for its primary competitor.
By consciousness I refer to a base set of abilities, including but not limited to expression, intuition, volition, emotion, and intellect. Here we introduced the CCH’s primary competitor as the immaterial consciousness hypothesis, with the basic premise being that consciousness can exist outside of a physical body. After much thought, I’ve decided to do away with that name in favor of the tripartite model of consciousness (TMC), with the basic premise being that consciousness is not an exclusively biological or cerebro-centric phenomenon. Under the TMC, three distinct yet overlapping elements merge to create human consciousness: spirit, soul, and body.
Unlike the CCH which states that everything related to consciousness emanates from the brain, the TMC states that spirit, soul and body each play their respective roles in human consciousness. As the light emitted by a lightbulb can be altered either by interrupting the current or damaging the bulb, perturbations in either spirit or body likewise alter soulical expression. Under the CCH, the brain bears resemblance to an unmoved mover of sorts, in that all activity is purported to proceed from it. Under the TMC, the brain remains an integral part of the equation, but assumes a more symbiotic or integrative function in the overall picture.
I believe this formulation accomplishes everything the previous immaterial consciousness hypothesis was intended to accomplish, with the added benefits of beginning without the assumption that consciousness is immaterial, not to mention superior compatibility with the Bible.
The TMC is actually the first idea I offered in response to Ebonmuse’s A Ghost in the Machine (AGITM):
Under the tripartite model, soul is the product of the union between spirit and body, and perturbations in either spirit or body can and often do lead to perturbations of soul. As the light needs both a conduit and an impetus to shine, a human needs both a body and spirit to have soul. Electricity (spirit) needs scaffolding (body) through which it can flow to produce any singular instance along the spectrum of electromagnetic energy we call light (soul). Also, light (soul) can either extinguish via damage to the scaffolding (body) through which electricity (spirit) flows, and equally when electricity (spirit) is disconnected from the scaffolding (body). –cl, The Biblical Distinction Between Soul & Spirit
I can often hear objections from skeptics while I write. This is good, as we must also ruthlessly examine the TMC for any inherent disadvantages. No hypothesis is without them. I fully expect atheists and skeptics to object more strongly to the TMC than traditional Cartesian dualism. After all, their chief complaint about Cartesian dualism is that it adds what they merely assert to be an unnecessary component into the explanation of consciousness, so their initial reaction will likely be that this tripartite model adds even another unnecessary component. We will address this when we return to the biblical distinctions between soul and spirit in greater detail.
The ability to cast useful predictions is perhaps the litmus test of all hypotheses. Historically, the CCH has produced testable predictions galore, such that going into them would be an unnecessary review. The journals abound with published papers from the fields of neurology, and Ebonmuse’s AGITM covers the CCH’s base predictions in extensive detail, strongly supporting them with empirical evidence (for example the case of Phineas Gage). Ebonmuse really did an excellent job in supporting the CCH (specifically the sCCH) with empirical evidence; where I submit that he’s failed is in the blatantly selective presentation of said evidence. Not one paragraph of AGITM devotes itself to an honest evaluation of anomalous evidence. IOW, anything that would seemingly falsify the sCCH is completely ignored. Hence my work in this direction.
Though different in the range of phenomena each are willing to permit, both the strong cerebro-centric hypothesis (sCCH) and the weak cerebro-centric hypothesis (wCCH) ultimately posit that consciousness and the full sum of mental phenomena that come with it are biological phenomena. This means they are products of biology, which means by extension that consciousness cannot exist outside of a biological component. As a general predictive starting point, I submit that even a single instance of consciousness existing outside a body effectively falsifies both versions of the CCH. If you disagree — that is, if you think an instance of non-embodied consciousness would not falsify both versions of the CCH — by all means, please speak up.
If anybody would like to offer their own predictions for the sCCH, wCCH or TMC, feel free. If not, now that we’ve finally hit the point where I think the competitors are ready to start slugging it out, the focus will turn to evaluating some real-world case studies to see which hypothes(es) they prefer.