Friday, May 22, 2009

Consciousness is a byproduct



Intuitively most people think that what we do is mediated by our consciousness. In other words, when I decide to raise my arm it is because I made some sort of conscious choice in my brain which then resulted in signals going down my corticospinal motor pathway and out to the muscles in my arm. 

I think that this is wrong. What is going on rahter, is that after the signal telling my muscles to contract have left my brain, then we become aware that this is the case. In other words being aware of what you do is merely a sort of byproduct, or epiphenomenon if you want to use a more academic language.

What is the evidence for this you might ask and I may answer what evidence do you have to support that our conscience can move an arm? However, I can do better than that because it turns out that there is indeed experimental evidence, produced by Benjamin Libet, suggesting that our consciousness is a byproduct. Benjamin Libet's subject were asked to do a very simple motor task, namely flex their index finger, they could to this whenever they wanted to. Libet wanted to measure the timing of three things, first when the muscle activity in the finger started, he did this using EMG electrodes which has high precision. The second variable he wanted to measure was when the brain activity leading to the action started, this was done using EEG scalp electrodes which like EMG has high temporal precision in the millisecond range. The third and perhaps most crucial variable Libet wanted to measure was when the conscious intention to flex the finger came. To do this he had a type of clock in which one arm would go a full revolution in 2,5 seconds. His subjects were told to report where the arm on this clock was when they first intended flex their finger. 



One would expect that if indeed we first intend to do something and then do it (which is a very intuitive scenario I will admit), if this is so then the flexing of the finger should occur subsequent to when the subject reported their intention. However, this was not the case, rather the flexing of the finger occured quite a while (approximately 500 milliseconds) before the conscious intention. The conclusion from this is that the brain knows that it is going to do something before the person does, or to be more precise, the part of the brain that handles motor initiation first do its thing, then after that the information is given to the part of the brain that mediates conscious awareness.

Many people when they hear this draw very radical conclusions, such as, why should we punish people if they do not have free will, or why should I care about anything, or do anything, what prevents me from becoming a nihilist. I one thinks about it, these conclusions are (at least in my opinion), unwarrented, but nevertheless interesting. I have touched upon these subjects before Perhaps they will be the topic of a later post...

4 comments:

jsolo said...

THE SEED
Our Choices
 
If you had a choice, right now, to choose to be with Christ Jesus in heaven would you choose to do so? Being human and having the power of choice, can we choose to ask God to grant us a wish? You see, there are three realms, earth, heaven, and hell. We live on the earth in the now, and we believe, as Christians, that at some point Christ will return to the earth and judge us in the final days. Between now and judgement day, death will end our stay on earth and God will judge our fate when that happens.

Christ said: "And all things whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you shall receive." What if, we asked God to stop this game that is being played out on earth, and grant us the one wish of living with him in heaven right now. What if, we choose to not allow Satan any more control over our lives and our future and made the decision to ask God to end this game. What if we, as human beings, with the power of choice, made a conscious decision to choose Christ Jesus, right now, over the day to day challenges and temptations that Satan offers.

Say, if in 2015, we were able to gather 9 billion, or 8 billion or 5 billion people, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Protestants, Jahovah Witnessers, Lutherians, Episcapalians, Muslims, Buddists, Hindu’s, and every other worshiper, together to pray to God, asking him to bring us home. If we ask Jesus Christ to come, would he be with us??? If we asked him to bring us home to his kingdom in heaven, would we receive??? Do you want to stop playing this earthly game??? Our home is in heaven and not here on earth. Is that a challenge?? Can you see the vision???

Christ has said: "And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened." We can ask billions of people to take one moment in time to act as one, crying out to God, our heavenly Father, "Take us home." OH GOD, take us from the land of the Pharaohs!!! Take us from the hands of evil, bring us home to your kingdom!!! Can we ask strong enough?? Can we ask hard enough?? Can we ask loud enough??? Do you believe???

Christ said: "And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you. Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full." Do we want to be filled with eternal joy?? Why have we not asked???

Can you imagine how we can make this happen?? Can you understand the power that God has given us in order that we may choose our own destiny, right now. We don’t have to wait until tomorrow, while Satan tricks and traps millions more souls into the fires of hell!!! The decision is ours. Can we choose?? Can we make this happen?? Can we start a holy movement around the world and set the date of our going home??? Or are our hearts hardened so much by this earthly realm that we can not conceive of the idea that God will grant our request???

Christ said: " I say to you further, that if two of you shall agree on earth about anything at all for which they ask, it shall be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them." Christ come into the mist of millions, of billions and grant our wish!!!


Take the poll!

Come, bind your spirit with mine so that we may work together to express this message. If you believe, leave a message so that we may communicate and the spirit of oneness and love may grow within us!!!

Make it happen!!!

This is your seed, plant it and watch it grow!!

Pass this message on to your friends and family!!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love!

Give a contribution! Donate to this cause!

jsolo
http://worldpeaceandfinancialsecurity.blogspot.com

sadunkal said...

Here's a more recent study, with 7 seconds in between instead of 0.5: The Wired: Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them

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thanks for sharing said...

Thanks for sharring importent information in this blog.
It was very nice.
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Ask Flashlari