QR6.1.7 Cognitive Theories

We assume realism when we observe that a reality exists out there apart from us. Physical realism calls it physical and quantum realism calls it quantum but, in both cases, sensory events cause nerves to cause observation. If sensory events cause nerve events that cause mental events, one can short-circuit the sequence to argue that mind alone creates observations. This goes against realism, but it is still logical.

Solipsism for example claims that mind alone creates reality, as it does when we dream. This theory is impossible to disprove but it isn’t accepted by science because it predicts nothing new and doesn’t explain how a mind that can dream arose in the first place.

QBism is a theory of physics that uses this “mind-trick” to dismiss not physical reality, as solipsism does, but quantum reality. It argues that quantum probabilities are degrees of belief about physical outcomes, so quantum waves are just in the mind. Like solipsism, it is impossible to disprove, as one could say gravity is a belief about how matter moves, so it is in the mind too. QBism doesn’t do this, as it uses the mind argument selectively to deny quantum reality not physical reality. Like solipsism, QBism has no scientific value because it makes no predictions nor does it explain how a mind with beliefs can exist (McQueen, 2017). That physicists now invoke the mind to deny quantum reality is telling, because the elephant in the room is that quantum causes can explain what physical causes can’t.

Another cognitive theory of consciousness attributes the mind to complexity, by claiming that brains become conscious in the same way that ants form colonies, because:

“… ant colonies are no different from brains in many respects.” (Hofstadter & Dennett, 1981) p181.

The brain is then just a colony of nerves that communicate electrically instead of chemically, as ants do. By this logic, the chemical trails ants lay down are the colony’s “language” just as neuron wiring causes our language. Dumb neurons then create consciousness as dumb ants create a colony, so it remains as neurons come and go, just as a colony remains as ants come and go. Crick’s “pack of neurons” theory is now that we are nothing but a colony of nerves.

The evidence that ant colonies are conscious is weak, as if an ant colony is a being that can communicate, why haven’t we learned its language by now, as we did that of the bees? It doesn’t help to suggest the same logic applies to countries like Russia or America:

“… let us think a bit right now about whether it makes sense to think of ‘being’ a country. Does a country have thoughts or beliefs?” (Hofstadter & Dennett, 1981) p192

To say that consciousness is private so countries might be conscious is just a smoke-screen, as no evidence at all suggests that countries are beings. Scientists don’t ask others to disprove their speculations but go where the evidence leads. To argue that what appears as a unity might be a being is an appeal to naivety. If that were true, tornadoes might be conscious beings, but they aren’t, and neither are ant colonies or countries. When we connect physical parts into a bicycle, it becomes an entity to us but not to itself.

After presenting paradoxical Gestalt patterns and speculating that ant colonies are conscious, the underwhelming conclusion of this theory is that:

“Mind is a pattern perceived by a mind.” (Hofstadter & Dennett, 1981) p200.

It isn’t hard to see that this statement is circular, because a mind is assumed to perceive a pattern that is then equated to the mind that perceived it. This theory, that mind is a creation of mind, is just another miracle thrown up to maintain physical realism.