What is consciousness? Can a computer be conscious? Is your pet cat or dog conscious?
I came to this question of consciousness as part of writing a book about setting intentions. I love to research and I love science. I planned to use current, scientific research to lend credibility to the concept of setting and accomplishing personal, family, and community intentions.
This approach, however, led me to a roadblock. I ran right smack into motionless, dogmatic Materialism. If the materialist conception of the world is correct, then humans have no free will, therefore intentionality, as I intended it to mean in my book, could not be possible. We are nothing but a bundle of neurons, according to the fated materialist view, and each and every thought, act, or emotion is predetermined.
Physicist Daniel Levy asserts that “whatever free will might be, it is a phenomenon of mind, and phenomena of mind must, in my physicalist conviction, be understood in relation to phenomena of the brain.” In his book Neural Holism and Free Will Levy asks: “Shouldn’t this make us despair—this realization that we are automatons with no powers of deliberation, no choices, relentlessly driven to perform mechanically, like a robot or computer? Not in the least. Under the proposed description, our responses (optimally) reflect all of our beliefs and desires, as represented in our neural states.” I don’t know about you, but his explanation doesn’t make me feel all that great; and how does consciousness fit in? Continue reading Consciousness: Materialism, Freewill, & Morphic Fields Forever
Where do our ideas about “race” come from? Did slavery create racism? Why can’t we all just get along?
Many people think “race” and racism have been around forever. When we look at historical records from earlier times and places we find our ideas about “race” are quite different than ideas held by people in the past.
In the ancient world, slavery was a way of life. Many slaves were owned by Egyptian, Greek, and Roman aristocracy. But these slaves did not necessarily have different skin color from their owners. Slave owners acquired their slaves through capture in warfare, punishment for crimes, colonialism, kidnapping and piracy, and other means. Even the inability to pay a debt might make someone a slave.
Slavery didn’t end with the fall of Rome. During the 15th through 19th centuries, many of the most powerful European countries engaged in colonialism. Much of the Americas, including the U.S., Cuba, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Atlantic Nicaragua were colonized and Africans were enslaved to work the conquered land.
In places where the European colonists brought slavery and settled, the mixing of populations between those of European descent and those of African descent created mulatto or Creole cultures. These cultures were typically “caste-stratified by skin tone and more broadly by the degree of ‘African-ness’… as opposed to ‘European-ness’ that an individual or family exhibits.” from Bad Subjects, “Colorless All-Color”: Notes on White Culture.
The U.S. is also a mulatto culture, but instead of becoming caste-stratified a color line was drawn dividing society into two exclusive groups: Whites and non-whites. Americans created a division between people that didn’t exist before and that we still feel the effects of today. Continue reading How does our thinking about “race” and ethnicity create conflict?