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What is the nature of consciousness? Is consciousness merely a by-product of the physical brain?

Consciousness is perhaps the greatest mystery ever to be presented to mankind. My question is: What is the nature of consciousness? How can the materialistic world view of mankind explain the phenomenon of consciousness. By its nature, which is of a totally immaterial and invisible, with its inner activity of thinking, also a totally invisible activity, which the whole of the scientific world view rests upon..."Thinking". What is thinking if not a non-physical super-sensible invisible, immaterial reality. For the scientific world view to understand itself, it must examine the nature of thinking. And in doing so, the "religious" world view will be able to find something to hang onto.Science and religion can meet on this question. Because it is here where they both fall short. Science cannot explain consciousness out of the materialistic world view. Religion cannot explain evolutionary principles in nature without adapting the scientific world view. The two are locked in an unending battle. Can it be that thinking is,in fact, the "spiritual activity of man"


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    Mar 4 2011: The idea that consciousness is biologically based has become scientifically accepted, because by definition a non-physical basis for consciousness cannot be measured or tested. Nevertheless, take a look around the world today. The total planetary GDP is over 50 trillion dollars, yet hundreds of millions of people don't have enough food. Injustice and poverty is rampant. Environmental pollution is massive.
    What is the common denominator of world "leaders"? Almost all of them are all materialists, and believe in the biological basis for consciousness.
    So reality tells us that there is something terribly wrong with this belief.
    It is not possible to prove that consciousness is "spiritual" or non-physical, yet every culture on the planet has had this belief.
    Materialistic cultures are warlike, domineering, and create dysfunctional societies.
    Either you understand yourself as essentially a divine spirit, or you don't. Those that don't create most of the mischief in our world.
    People who have had a spiritual awakening are uniformly saner, more cooperative, and work toward the greater good. Materialists "look out for number one," are often aggressive and domineering, and very often have no concern for the consequences of their actions .None of this activity can be considered sane.
    Unfortunately, as Eckhart Tolle and others like him have discovered, it isn't possible to teach knowledge of self. But if anyone could ever figure it out, the human race would soon discover it's full potential.
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      Mar 5 2011: Spirit is what you believe starting from childhood hearing the stories with things a child is already familiar to.
      And material is what you learn, and majority stops accepting knowledge after mastering some amount of it.
      Spiritual side is just faster explaining stuff you can get from material side.
      Any "warlike, domineering, and create dysfunctional societies." comes from unknowing and exists on both sides.
      May be as Echart Tolle says "it isn't possible to teach knowledge of self", but it's possible to learn it for sure after you have the source.
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        Mar 7 2011: George,
        I agree! Spiritual and material can co-exist, and it is up to us as individuals to decide how we use the information when we have the source:>)

        You make some pretty broad statements. "Either you understand yourself as essentially a divine spirit, or you don't. Those that don't create most of the mischief in our world?" I believe I am a spirit being having a human experience, but your statement doesn't feel very kind for those who do not believe in spirituality. I like the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, and I don't think this is one of them. It IS possible to "teach knowledge of self", and to do that, first we need to understand our "self" and walk our talk. Is it helpful to label as mischiefmakers all those who do not believe in spirituality?
    • Mar 5 2011: Ken,

      I am truly sorry to say this, but that was a full load of nonsense. The world's problems, poverty, hunger, sicknesses, pests, drought, and a huge et cetera have always existed, and you can't just shrug and blame it on "materialist leaders" and the "belief" that consciousness is biological rather than "spiritual." It is a non-sequitur. I see consciousness as biological and biological only. I don't see a path from this into wanting every human in the world to die of hunger, nor for not caring about it. It is rather remarkable that physical-chemical processes can produce such a thing as consciousness, and I value it the most because of its genuine and "humble" origins (if we dare to call star fission-reactions, supernovae, and billions of years of biological evolution, "humble"). If we are instants of pinches of stardust pondering about ourselves, we are certainly valuable and we cannot but value this short opportunity we have to be ourselves. I am not saying that every "materialist" will necessarily think like myself, and many certainly won't. But most of those I do know value humanity beyond anything most "spirituals" can imagine.

      Humanity can be war-prone for whatever excuse. "Materialism" has nothing particular to do with it. Any excuse will do. Just take a look at religions with all of their "spirituality." Their very sacred books mandate wars, or at least hatred, against those with different beliefs (yes, the bible too). Do you think 9/11 was a "materialist" terrorist attack?

      Self-discovery has nothing to do with believing in spirits. It might have more to do with courage.

      Please think before attempting to answer my comment. I would detest having to explain to you something as basic as why a 20th/21st century dictator could do more damage than the crusaders, or the declared beliefs of the most famous of those genocidal leaders that most "anti-materialists" bring into these exchanges.
      • Mar 5 2011: Agree with you Gabo on this point. I cant find any correlation between what some people call spirituality and what goes on in the world, either today or throughout history, of whatever form of aggressive of dominant form of behavior. Spirituality is not synonomous with harmony and peace. Materialism is not the cause of mankinds problems. What some want to call spirituality can take a distorted form in forms of power strugles, perversion and even war. Its people like george bush with the famous words from the bible "your either with us or agains us" that exemplify a twisted form for godliness..... or as Dylan would put it "with god on our side"
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          Mar 7 2011: Gabo,
          I agree with you that self-discovery has to do with courage. It takes courage to open our hearts and minds to different information. I also agree that life challenges are fueled by many different factors. For me, the important thing in life is not what label I choose, but rather how I live my life. If we do label ourselves and others based on underlying beliefs, how are we ever going to connect all the "good guys" in our world in a way that may create changes?
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        Mar 5 2011: Hi Gabo --
        The belief in materialism has little to do with one's profession, or whether one calls oneself religious.The hardest materialists I know are religious people!
        Perhaps I did paint with too broad a brush; I have no doubt that a materialist can value humanity; but that valuation doesn't stem from a materialist POV: it comes from an innate understanding of a person's divine nature.
        The debate between materialists and spiritualists is pointless; and I long ago decided not to engage in it. If consciousness is non-physical, it is by definition outside the purview of science, because this assertion cannot be measured. I understand that the above assertion is a valid objection of materialists to people who quack about spirituality. But materialists can never prove that consciousness isn't non-physical for precisely the same reason. Neither can people who believe that consciousness is non-physical prove that it is.
        Let's agree to disagree on this one. But let's do agree that the primary concern should be not whether one is a "spiritualist" (whatever that means) or a "materialist" -- because these labels just shove complex and intelligent beings into little boxes -- but whether you are a person who, as you say, truly "values humanity."
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          Mar 5 2011: fact that consciousness is material is proven by materialists already. It's personal for someone to take it or not.
          There are lot of similarities in spiritual-materialist views, that just have another form. But we all value life ) and it's great)
        • Mar 6 2011: But Ken you are missing the point. A valuation of humanity might not come from a materialist POV necessarily (you are right, this "materialism" would have to be defined, but the context suggested that materialism in question was the idea that there are no spirits), but in my case it did not come from any perception of any "divine" nature (actually quite the opposite), innate or otherwise.

          So yes, let us agree to disagree and leave it there. No use.
    • Mar 5 2011: I think your off base on this point Ken. The problem is not that materialism is the cause of the problems in the world. Spirituality is a double edged sword. It makes a son turn from his father and his family. Its the individuality shining through. Thats what spirituality is. It not a form of conformity to a path of spirituality. Its not to create peace in the world. True spirituality is of a totally free nature. As is your own thinking. To think free as a free indipendently thinking and acting being. Not to fall in line with conformists.
      To say "materialist only look out for number one" is an insult that I disagree with completely . You jump to a conclusion about many many people that holds no water. Your out on an edge by making so many accusations. I smell a form of religous self-rightousness that really turns a lot of people off.
      I feel that everyone is basically looking for the truth. Thats our nature. Justice and human values are just as strong in a materialist as they are in the most religious person. There are many great scientist and politicians who have no form for spiritual world picture that set highest norm for mankinds respect for each others lives and values.
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        Mar 5 2011: Hi Daniel --
        I think the problem here is that we aren't defining our terms, and that my contribution to the discussion has strayed from your original question..
        I am curious: how does spirituality make a son turn from his father? That is the opposite of spirituality as I see it.
        I am not religious at all -- I rejected religion in high school.
        The original question that you wrote was, "what is the nature of consciousness?"
        My belief -- because it cannot be proven -- is that consciousness is not dependent upon biology. That is something reasonable people have debated for millennia, and will probably continue to debate until the end of time..
        Let's leave it at that.
        • Mar 7 2011: Hi Ken, I've been away for the past three days and havn't been able to keep up on TED.
          The question of son/father... If the father says "practice your violin!" to a child the child will follow orders... up to a certain age. Then, the child will develop its own identity and perhaps, not necessarily so, say "no father, I'm finished with this stupid violin" put it down and never look at it again. The individuality of the child reaches a certain strength within it's consciousness that gives it enough weight over time that the child can stand up against the father. This is also what you will find in the Bible if you read closely. Also you can read the words "I have not come to create peace" These two statements become very interesting if one thinks about such words as individuality and consciousness.
          I am pretty certain that science will, one day, be able to actually have so sensitive instruments and understanding of the world that knowledge of the immaterial world will become an object of scientific study. It may take some time though. On the other hand, when one looks at whats going on in the field of NDE I begin to think that it may be a big press release that the spiritual world is in fact a reality.
          Of course there are as many wrong and twisted ideas about the spiritual world as there are wrong and twisted ideas about the material world. Were all guilty of fault.... almost by nature...
          Generally speaking,to expect the biologists admitting to such a thing that consciousness can exist independently from the physical body is like asking him to pull the chair out from under himself. This he would never do. Of course unless he is free enough in his own thinking and driven in his search for the bigger picture of life.... and not to mention death.
          I get the impression that you are a person with some spiritual direction by your earlier comments but you are not religious. Thats a bit unusual, but interesting. What do you think about the idea of reincarnation?
    • Mar 7 2011: I don't persoannly see a difference between the spiritual and material. When I undergo a spiritual experience there are physical /material/ changes in my body and brain chemistry, changes which can be observed and measured. I see spirituality (and consciousness by the way) as a product of the mechanistic process of the brain, I don't see this as detracting from spiritual experiences, the more we understand about the nature of these experiences the better, so lets pull in our most objective thinking tools, logic and rationality.

      Some may claim ignorance is bliss, or that these things are beyond the realms of science to understand, these claims have been made before and no doubt will continue to be made, but I find a flower no less beautiful because I understand the process by which it formed, or because I know a little something about the matter from which it is formed, in fact that knowledge allows me to appreciate it even more.

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