QR6.1.7 Cognitive Theories

When observing things, we assume realism, that a reality out there apart from us causes it. Physical realism calls it physical reality and quantum realism calls it quantum reality but either way, most people agree that nerves interact with physical events to cause observation. If physical events cause nerve events that cause observation, one can short-circuit the event sequence to argue that mind alone creates reality. This goes against realism, but it is quite 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 doesn’t explain how a mind that dreams arose in the first place and predicts nothing new.

QBism is a theory of physics that uses the same “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 the force of gravity is a belief about how matter moves, so it is in the mind too. QBism doesn’t do this, as it selectively uses the mind argument 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). It is telling that physicists now invoke the mind to deny quantum reality because the elephant in the room of physics today is that quantum causes explain what physical causes don’t.

Cognitive theories of consciousness in contrast invoke the mind differently, by claiming that brains are conscious for the same reason that ant colonies are, because:

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

The logic is that ants become a colony by chemical communication and nerves do the same by electrical communication, so the chemical trails ants lay down are the colony’s “language” just as neuron wiring causes our language. The analogy is that dumb neurons create consciousness as dumb ants create a colony, so consciousness remains as neurons come and go just as the colony remains as ants come and go. It reinvents Crick’s “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons” theory.

The evidence is weak, as if an ant colony is a being that communicates by ant trails, 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

The logic that consciousness is private so countries might be conscious is a smokescreen because scientists don’t ask others to disprove their speculations but go where the evidence leads and nothing at all suggests that countries are conscious beings. To say “You see a unity so it is a unity” is an appeal to the naivety that something is an entity because we see it so. If that were true, tornadoes would be conscious, 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 mysterious 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. The underlying agenda of this theory, that mind is a creation of mind, is that consciousness is imaginary as physical realism requires.