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The Big Scientific Dogma


A strictly mechanistic approach to life cannot satisfactorily explain consciousness. But researchers in the life sciences now almost universally assume that a living being is nothing more than a highly complex machine built from molecular components. In the fields of philosophy and psychology, this assumption leads to the inevitable conclusion that the mind involves nothing more than the biophysical functioning of the brain. According to this viewpoint, we can define in entirely mechanistic terms the words we normally apply to human personality like consciousness, perception, meaning, purpose and intelligence.


'Scientific psychology, as the well known saying goes, having first lost its soul, later its consciousness, seems finally to lose its mind altogether" wrote philosopher Herbert Feigl, director f Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science. He thus summarizes one of the most fundamental trends in modern thought - the reduction of all spiritual and mental phenomena delusively to biochemical brain functions. Philosopher Richard Rorty of Princeton states that a representative of this view would say to someone, "It would make life simpler for us if you would in the future say, 'My C-fibres are firing' instead of saying, 'I'm in pain'." The philosophers, however, are merely following the lead of modern science, which from its very beginnings has been mechanistic.


Convinced about the new technology of artificial intelligence research or 'cognitive engineering', scientists proceed on the assumption that digital computers of sufficient speed and complexity can in fact produce all aspects of conscious personality. Professor Arthur Harkins, director of the Graduate Futures Program at the University of Minnesota, said that "by the year 2000, people will be getting married to robots and society will begin to ponder the definition of 'human'." Such a boldly made blind statement did not become true by 2000, nor will it ever become true in a million years. This vision of a future humanoid computer may appear titillating, but how well does it tally with what it really means to be human? Our thoughts, feelings and desires lie at the very heart of what we all call the human experience. In their hasty dash to equate sophisticated machines with human beings, many philosophers, psychologists and scientists have trampled upon the fundamental distinctions between the two.