The first step to understanding the modern scientific view of conciousness
is to understand the role of memory. Our “stream of conciousness” is
created by our perception of present consciousness (right fuckin’ now) and
our memory of this consciousness. This means memory down to the split
second in the past level. Mind / body dualism theories don’t address the
issue of memory of consciousness. It’s just considered a product of being
conscious and not in and of itself important. It is assumed that the memory
of conciousness works in much the same way as other memory. The discovery
that this isn’t so was the biggest breakthrough ever in consciousness
research. I’ll try to explain a bit further with an analogy. Lets say that
yesterday you had a particular urge to eat chocolate. You went by your
local cofectionary and purchased a large Toblerone. Today you remember the
craving, the trip to the store etc. Or, if you’re like me, you remember
most of it but forget a few details. The craving is a subjective memory and
the trip etc. is an objective memory. Apart from this difference, they are
identical in your perception of them and, you assume, are equally accurate.
You now say “yes but there is a big difference since the objective memory
can be checked and the subjective one can’t”. Correct. Which leads to the
observation that there is no way to verify the subjective memory. You could
have wanted a salad, gone to the store and bought a chocolate bar and then
remembered wanting a chocolate bar all along and you couldn’t know the
difference. This seemingly innocuous and irrelevent feature of the mind led
directly to the observation that it is not necessary to actually have
conciousness to remember having it. This feature allowed a path for
evolution to create, using memory, this being that experiences life, that
is, wills actions and experiences a response to observations and stimulii,
without needing any knowledge of the machine that makes it happen. It seems
that this is, in fact, what is happening. The memory of conciousness, even
a half second ago, is a false memory of the working of the brain. And
consequently, the memory of that memory is too. As is the memory of
recalling those memories. This feedback loop creates our stream of

Now for the lab stuff. My question before about one’s perception of exactly
when they decide to make an action refers to experments designed to measure
the delay between when a person makes a subjectively willed decision to say,
lift a finger, to when electrical activity is observed in the brain. If
there is a soul, or other separate thing, this would correspond to the time
necessary for the freely willed command to enter the mechanical brain and
result in the electrical activity associted with the finger movement. It
was discovered that the electrical activity occurs about 1/3 of a second
BEFORE the subject is conscious of deciding to raise a finger. This is
inconsistent with dualism. However, if the brain creates the impression, in
memory, that a free willed but separate “self” directed the action, there
would have to be a delay. This seems to be the case.

Without a way to store a portion of its inner workings, thought wouldn’t be
possible. The evolving brain need a way to represent itself. And there was
absolutely no need to make that representation accurate to the inner
workings of the brain. All that was required was that this thing that we
call “me” be somehow created by a complex interaction of neurons. This is
why our self image bears no resemblance to the way the brain works. It
would be unnecessary and evolution doesn’t work like that. Evolution took
the easiest way to create this very useful subjective feeling of having a
“soul”. It allows us to interact with other people for starters. And to
ask ourselves questions which lead to this type of discussion.

Hope this facile explanation lends some insight into current conciousness
research. And hope that it isn’t too materialistic. If you want more,
ask. Gotta fly. There’s a 'lil kid asking me why it’s raining in December
up here. I’m going to tell him that it’s God crying. And just to rilly
fuck him up I’m going to tell him that it’s 'cause of something he did…