Since ancient times, the biggest mysteries have been those involving the conscious mind. How exactly does consciousness arise in biological organisms? What is it in the brain that allows us to perceive the colors and sounds of the world, to think, to remember, and to control what we do? What, in others words, are we? Are we nothing more than the material structures of our brain and body or are we made of something additional—something presently unknown to science? The answers to these questions would profoundly impact the worldviews, the value systems, and the hopes for the future of mankind.
From the earliest philosophers to the scientists of today, we have been asking these questions; but the answers remain elusive. Despite great progress in the understanding of the brain, no cogent theory has been proposed that explains any kind of mental activity. Indeed, the inability of neuroscience to even begin to address matters of the mind has led to a growing sense that a radical new theory is needed.
TRYING A NEW STRATEGY
Here, a new tactic was conceived and applied. And the resulting hypotheses have been given thumbs-up assessments by some of the most formidable critics writing today (see below). Let me share the basics with you as briefly as I can.
First, stark contradictions between the character of the known components of the brain and the content and processes of the conscious mind indicate that Nature must have endowed us with something extra. These contradictions include the humdrum nature of neurons versus the remarkable phenomenon of consciousness, the insularity of neurons vs. the unity of conscious experience, the monotony of the neocortex vs. the extraordinary variety of mental phenomena, the stark contrast in kind between the material structures of the brain and qualia and other mental content, and other conflicts noted in the accompanying manuscript. Such thoroughgoing contradictions appear to preclude the possibility that the known components of the brain are the basis of the conscious mind. They’re simply the wrong kind of thing with which to explain the special character and variety of mental phenomena.
But the most powerful argument against such a possibility is also the simplest: our self-evident ability to think freely and to choose among alternative courses of action—something we do hundreds of times each day—indicates that our mind must be based on something other than mere atoms and molecules. Our freedom and choices are simply incompatible with the mechanistic mix of determinism and mere randomness governing them. The virtually universal recognition of our ability to freely choose what we do is as much a form of commonsense realism as the recognition that we are conscious and think. And this volitional ability of ours clearly indicates that something “new” and so far undetected in Nature must account for it.
The next logical step, then, involves looking for ways in which Nature could endow the brain with something additional—something freely acting that can account for mental content and processes in a fairly straightforward fashion.
After the adoption of this tactic, an exhaustive five-year search then led to a second conclusion: Based on what is known to exist in nature and on current physical laws and their reasonable extensions, there are only two possible mechanisms for engendering in us a distinct, higher-level mental system. And these two mechanisms are described in the ms.
ARE QUALIONS THE BASIS OF THE MIND?
The proposed end-products of these mechanisms—unbridled bundles of localized energy rotating at light-speed (designated qualions)—appear to be just the kind of something “new” and remarkable that is needed to explain consciousness. The basis of the conscious mind is thus proposed to be energy, not matter; and the mind is proposed to interact electromagnetically with the material structures of the brain.
And second, a coherent system for explaining a broad variety of mental phenomena—including qualia, thinking, memory, volition, and selfhood—can be built on this foundation. In science, those hypotheses with the greatest explanatory power are usually the ones that succeed.
All the above factors seem to indicate that these new hypotheses may have some merit. Nevertheless, they are strictly speaking no more than hypotheses; and it will ultimately be up to scientists to verify or falsify them.
In this regard, there may be many parallels between the conceptual history of the qualion and that of the quark. When Gell-Mann and Zweig first introduced the quark concept, few people found it convincing; but because of its explanatory power it gained enough interest to be tested, and today quarks enjoy the same confirmed status as photons and electrons.
Visitors to this website are therefore invited to give thoughtful consideration to the new ideas proposed on this website. All indications are that Nature may have endowed us with something that makes us a good deal more than a machine—something that for want of a better word we may call a soul.
Visitors may click here to begin reading the manuscript, “The Qualion Hypotheses: Some New Proposals On the Physical and Supraphysical Bases of the Mind.” Copies of the ms. may be made and distributed. You are also invited to send your comments to the author using the Comments box at the bottom of this website. (Note: The author wishes to be remain unnamed for the time being. He doesn’t want publicity and a potential spotlight to interfere with his responsibility to care for an aging parent. He has concluded that it would be best for attention to be focused exclusively on the new ideas presented here. The few who know his identity are therefore asked to keep it confidential.)
Continue reading to learn of its positive reviews by pre-eminent scholars and its three-time rejection by mainstream journals—two of which have a strong neuro-materialistic leaning.
Journal of Mind and Behavior: A pivotal physicist referee acknowledged viability of new proposals, but shockingly recommended rejecting the ms. unless author was willing to discuss the physicist’s own idiosyncratic “solution” to the mind-body problem. Author refused and ms. was rejected.
Consciousness and Cognition: Anyone who truly understands the mind-body problem realizes that radical new ideas are needed to resolve it. The editors at this journal acknowledged that the ms. proposed radical new ideas, but this meant in effect that the ms. was merely a “thought piece” and rejected it.
Journal of Consciousness Studies: Two referees recommended publishing the ms. and two recommended rejecting it. One referee said in effect that neuroscience is doing just fine in solving the mysteries of the mind and consciousness and hence there is no need for any new ideas. The ms. was rejected. The journal refused to allow author to rebut criticisms by the either of the two thumbs-down referees.
Those wise enough to understand that present-day physics and neuroscience are inadequate to the task of resolving the mind-body problem have reviewed the new proposals in very positive terms.
E. J. Lowe: (before his death: professor, University of Durham; author of many books on metaphysics and philosophy of mind; one of the leading thinkers of his generation) “fascinating,” “extremely thought-provoking,” “eminently sensible,” “intuitively satisfying,” “a good chance of success.”
Colin McGinn: (arguably, the most brilliant analyst of the mind-body problem writing today; teaching posts and professorships at Oxford, Rutgers, and Miami; author of many books on the mind and consciousness; perhaps the pre-eminent reviewer of mind-body proposals) “an ingenious, erudite, well-articulated account of what the physical basis of consciousness might be,” “[reflects] an excellent feeling for the structure and difficulty of the problem,” “his approach is a good deal more promising than approaches that are standard in the published literature.”
Galen Strawson: (teaching posts at Oxford, CUNY, and Texas; in one of his numerous books, Mental Reality, he argued persuasively that present-day physics in inadequate to address the problem of consciousness and must be expanded to address this issue) “quite excellent,” “look forward to hearing more about this in due course.”
Rocco Gennaro: (author, Consciousness and Self-Consciousness: A defense of the higher-order thought theory of consciousness, and The Consciousness Paradox; guest editor, Journal of Consciousness Studies): “In an area where genuinely new ideas are relatively rare, it is refreshing to see a well-articulated and viable alternative,” “has the potential to become a much discussed physicalist alternative to the more familiar materialist accounts,” “I have also discussed it with members of our Physics Department interested in consciousness.”
Stephen Kosslyn: (professor at Harvard, Stanford, and Minerva; eminent neuroscientist, psychologist, and author) “well thought out,” “worth reading.”
Fred Alan Wolf: (theoretical physicist specializing in quantum physics) “read with interest,” “author indeed presents a novel concept of a new form of particle that could arise in biological environments.”
The author is especially grateful to Prof. Ian J. Thompson, Fellow of the Institute of Physics (London), former Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Surrey, UK, and now a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US. He agreed to read the ms. and then was kind enough to be part of a twelve-stage dialogue on its content between early March and late July 2015. This resulted in substantial improvements to the content, wording, and organization of the paper.
And the author is finally grateful to the late Richard Feynman, whose advice and words of encouragement early on provided the inspiration to persist during the difficult road ahead. A two-page, handwritten letter from this great Nobelist physicist will always remain a prized possession.