Mainstream neuroscientists quarrel about “pseudoscience”

by | Oct 9, 2023 | Consciousness, Story Ideas | 0 comments

September-October 2023

Mainstream neuroscience doesn’t know how consciousness works, but research in the field is mushrooming. In recent weeks, the subject has become particularly topical because of a scientific quarrel.

At the core is the Integrated Information Theory (IIT), whose chief proponents are Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch. IIT offers an explanation that is less obviously physicalist than most standard theories (it posits that all complex systems are conscious and is sometimes likened to what is called panpsychism).

Within the confines of physicalism, the default tenet is that consciousness must emerge from matter. A non-physicalist approach, such as in idealism, reverses the tenet: Consciousness is fundamental, and matter emerges out of consciousness.

A letter published in a scientific journal on 15 September, signed by 124 scientists, labels IIT as “pseudoscience”. Calling a theory pseudoscience is tantamount to insulting its proponents. Neuroscientist Erik Hoel criticised the letter for being counterproductive. Shortly thereafter, leading idealist philosopher Bernardo Kastrup revealed his support for IIT. He argues it is a useful complement to analytical idealism.

For a closer look at the feud as well as the IIT theory itself, The Atlantic has an excellent summary.

For more background on the topic, see our brief Covering Consciousness.

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