A popular belief challenged
Most scientists follow the philosophy known as materialism: the belief that the physical universe is all that there is. According to materialism, everything can be reduced to particles interacting with each other. All that you are is nothing more than a bunch of particles interacting with each other according to the laws of physics.
Perhaps you think this makes perfect sense right now. But I believe materialism is actually fundamentally, logically incorrect. In fact, I know it is incorrect. It goes without saying that this is a very bold claim. If one follows scientific reasoning, then one should not make this sort of claim without hard evidence to back it up. And that is exactly what I am about to do. In this article, I shall destroy the concept of materialism with facts and logic.
Complexity and consciousness
A simple machine
Picture this: a crank connected to a gear, connected to another gear, connected to a wheel. This is a machine. A simple machine, but a machine nonetheless. It takes input through its crank, which could be considered a very basic sort of sensor. The crank “senses” input when it is turned, which causes it to turn the gears. These gears eventually give an output: a turning wheel, in this case.
This machine is extremely simple. Between the input and the output is nothing but a few gears. Actually, the gears themselves could be considered part of either the output or the input. The movement of one gear is the output of the crank, and this gear acts as a sort of rotation sensor, which then affects its output: the second gear. And that is all there is to it. It is just a bunch of parts that take an input and give an output. The machine is certainly not conscious of anything. How could it be? It is just a bunch of parts moving together.
Adding more gears only increases complexity
But what if we make the machine more complex? We could add more inputs. We could also add more gears. More outputs. We could add all sorts of mechanical parts. With some patience and some clever engineering, you could turn the simple machine into a mechanical calculator. But it is still just a machine.
Electrical is still a form of mechanical
How about using electric components instead of mechanical ones? Does that make a difference? Nope. An electric computer is still a form of mechanical calculator. We have simply traded the clunky large-scale mechanics of gears for the small-scale mechanics of electrons. My laptop, in spite of its complexity, is still a machine that takes input and produces an output with nothing but a bunch of interacting particles in the middle. It is still nothing but a machine. No consciousness.
Machine learning does not create consciousness
But what if we make the machine learn stuff? Maybe that is the key to consciousness! Well, consider this: all forms of “learning” in computers can be reduced to basic concepts of logic. If A then do B, otherwise if C and D then do E. The machine may store data from past interactions, but that data is nothing more than particles charged and arranged in a particular way. There is still nothing more to the machine than what you can observe.
Randomness does not create consciousness
How about randomness? Does that change anything? No, not really. Random input is just random input. Ultimately, the randomness is derived from the physical mechanics of how the universe works.
Complexity can not create consciousness
No matter what you do, no matter how complex your machine gets, it is still nothing more than a bunch of particles interacting with each other according the laws of the physical universe. The only thing you can do is add more complexity. But that won’t magically make your machine conscious. And besides, science does not believe in magic.
The brain is a computer
Hang on, what about the human brain? Is it different from other machines? Well, it’s certainly quite complex. It’s got a lot of stuff going on inside it. But it’s still just something that takes input and produces output, with a bunch of neurons in between. In a way, the neurons are not that different from the gears mentioned earlier. So by reason of pure logic, one can deduce that the brain cannot be the source of consciousness. After all, it is just another machine.
But wait… according to materialism, consciousness can be explained with physical phenomena. We have a problem here. The reasoning of materialism forces us to believe that consciousness must be reducible to physics, yet there is no way to explain where consciousness comes from.
Well, maybe consciousness just isn’t real, then. That seems like a sensible answer. Until of course you realize that you are conscious.
Consciousness and materialism
As I write this, I look around myself. I see my hands typing on the keyboard and the laptop screen in front of me. I see a whole world all around me. But where does this picture come from? My eyes are only sending electrical signals to my brain. And once they reach the brain… uh… that’s it. At no point does the image I see in front of me exist. It’s just a bunch of particle interactions.
So how is it that I am seeing? How is it that I am hearing? How is it that I am… wait a minute…
I am. I am? How can it be that I am? How am I?
I exist. I am myself, but I am not that which I observe. Everything that I observe is not me. Clearly, my brain is the center of my connection to the physical universe, yet the brain itself can not be me, for the brain is just another part of the world I observe.
The fatal flaw of materialism
Materialism ultimately forces you to believe that there is no such thing as consciousness. But to believe that means that you are nothing but a machine. At the base level you are controlled by the physical laws of the universe. You have no free will. There is no right and wrong. There is really no you. You could jump off a cliff right now and it would not matter. Nothing matters. It is all just a bunch of particles interacting with each other, according to materialism.
And yet… that contradicts reality. The thing about humans is that we think. And if you think about it, thinking is not something that can be entirely explained with physics. Sure, the brain stores info, but that info is just a bunch of particles organized in a certain way. Particles don’t think. And your brain is nothing but a bunch of particles. As we already discovered, more particles and more complexity does not create consciousness. According to materialism, there is nothing there but the particles. And yet here I am. And there you are.
The spiritual is scientific
Finally, reason and logic will take you to the only possible resolution: materialism is incorrect. Logically, there must be another side to the universe that is separate from the physical, yet is able to interact with it somehow. Most people call this the spiritual. In an ironic twist, true science does not deny the existence of the spiritual, but instead confirms its existence. In hindsight, this fact is rather simple to prove. But it seems that some of the most powerful truths are simple.
Why I wrote this article
I would be a fool to think that I am the first to point this out. You can bet I won’t be the last, either. I don’t expect this article to change the minds of the mainstream scientific community. In fact, I don’t think the word “scientific” accurately describes them. If they actually followed scientific reasoning, they would have abandoned materialism long ago. Materialism is their religion, and anyone who dares to question it is labeled a crackpot.
I am writing this for the people with open minds. Those who are on the fence on whether or not the spiritual is real or not. Those who actually follow the scientific method. I fully believe that the existence of a spiritual side to the universe can be proven to exist via pure reason and logic. I hope that this article demonstrates that.
So, to summarize: materialism is incorrect because the laws of the physical universe cannot explain consciousness, and consciousness can be proven to exist by the fact that you are conscious. This proves that the universe must have a non-physical side, otherwise known as the spiritual.
Until next time, this has been Zebulan, and I thank you all for reading.