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The Mystery of Consciousness

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A 4-part Webinar Series with Donald Hoffman

Recorded on April 26th, May 3rd, May 10th & May 17th, 2018. cost $49.

View on Demand

 
If you suffer a stroke in area V4 on the left side of your brain, you lose all perception of color in the right half of vision. You are otherwise normal. If a powerful magnet stimulates area V4 on the right side of your brain, you experience psychedelic colors in the left half of vision. Neural activity in area V4 is highly correlated with your conscious experiences of color. Neuroscience has discovered dozens of fascinating correlations between neural activity and conscious experiences. But no scientific theory can explain why. The relation between neural activity and conscious experiences is just as mysterious as the relation between rubbing a lamp and the appearance of a genie.

In this webinar, we discover why neuroscience has failed to understand consciousness. Neuroscience assumes that we see reality as it is, that space, time and objects exist even when they are not perceived, and that objects such as neurons have genuine causal powers. We discover, to the contrary, that evolution by natural selection shapes our senses to hide reality from us. Perception is not a window on reality; it is more like a windows interface on your laptop. Spacetime is your desktop, and physical objects, like apples and neurons, are simply icons on this desktop. Neural activity cannot cause conscious experiences, because neurons don’t exist when they are not perceived.

If spacetime and physical objects are not objective reality, then what is? We explore the idea that consciousness itself is objective reality, and that conscious agents create spacetime and objects to interface with other conscious agents. This idea has been turned into a scientific theory with a mathematically precise denition of conscious agents. Conscious agents do not out the laws of physics; they explain the genesis of these laws. We explore this theory, some of its surprising predictions, and its implications for the dialogue between science and spiritual.

In short, this webinar explores:

  • The relationship between consciousness and the brain
  • Why the brain does not cause our conscious experiences
  • How evolution shaped our senses to hide reality from us
  • Why our senses instead serve as a user interface
  • How to develop a science in which consciousness is fundamental
  • The relationship between science and spirituality
Chris FieldsDonald Hoffman is a cognitive scientist and author of more than 100 scientific papers and three books, including Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See (W.W. Norton, 2000). He received his BA from the University of California, Los Angeles in Quantitative Psychology and his Ph.D. from MIT in Computational Psychology. He joined the faculty of the University of California, Irvine, in 1983, where he is now a full professor in the department of cognitive sciences. He received a Distinguished Scientific Award of the American Psychological Association for early career research into visual perception, the Rustum Roy Award of the Chopra Foundation, and the Troland Research Award of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has a TED Talk entitled “Do we see reality as it is?
His website is http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/

 

tv_demand-iconAll the sessions will be recorded and available on demand so you may view at anytime. Check your email for details. Once you signup for the course on our website you will need to also register with zoom. Have any questions? Read our FAQ for webinar support.

Course Description:

April 26 – Neuroscience and consciousness

We encounter fascinating examples of the correlations between neural activity and conscious experiences. We explore the best theories of consciousness that neuroscientists offer. We see how and why these theories fail.

4:00–4:30 Examine correlations between neural activity and conscious experiences.

4:30–5:00 Explore the best theories of consciousness that neuroscientists offer.

5:00–5:30 Understand how and why these theories fail.

Duration: 90 mins


May 3 – Perception and reality

Most neuroscientists assume that our senses evolved to show us the truths about reality that we need to survive. This assumption is false. We explore the logic of evolution by natural selection which shows that it is false. We discover instead that evolution shaped our senses to hide reality and provide us a user interface that guides adaptive behavior. Physical objects are icons of our interface, not preexisting realities. Neurons, in particular, are just icons and have no power to create conscious experiences.

4:00– 4:30 Explore the logic of evolution by natural selection.

4:30–5:00 Study how evolution shaped our senses to hide reality.

5:00–5:30 Understand our senses as a user interface that guides adaptive behavior.

Duration: 90 mins


May 10 – Consciousness and reality

Consciousness has been discussed informally for centuries. We show how to turn key intuitions about consciousness into a genuine scientific theory of consciousness. We then explore the surprising implications of this new theory of consciousness for free will, spacetime and physical objects. We see that consciousness is not a latecomer in a physical universe. Instead, spacetime and matter are interfaces employed by conscious agents.

4:00–4:30 Examine key properties of consciousness.

4:30 – 5:00 Explore a new scientific theory of consciousness.

5:00–5:30 Study the relation between physics and consciousness.

Duration: 90 mins


May 17 – Science and spirituality

Rumi said that “Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.” Are matters of the spirit forever beyond the ken of science? Or is this barrier an illusion, engendered by misconceptions—that science requires a physicalist ontology anathema to spirituality, and that the spiritual realm is impervious to the methods of science? In this final webinar, we see how to forge a new scientific spirituality which addresses the big questions: Who are we? Why are we?

4:00–4:30 Explore theories of the relation between science and spirituality.

4:30–5:00 Examine the implications of evolution for this relation.

5:00–5:30 Explore how a scientific spirituality might address the human condition.

Duration: 90 mins


Learning Objectives:

– Describe several neural correlates of consciousness
– Utilize the logic of evolution by natural selection
– Review current scientific theories of perception
– Critique scientific theories of consciousness
– Summarize current theories of the relation between physics and consciousness
– Measure the relation between science and spirituality

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