Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 4

One of Godel’s biographers, Dr. Wang, a rather conservative philosopher himself, concluded that the consequences of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem for Mathematics included at least one of the following, if not all:

1.        Mathematics is inexhaustible.
2.        Any consistent formal theory of mathematics must contain undecidable propositions.
3.        No theorem-proving computer (or program) can prove all and only the true propositions of mathematics.
4.        No formal system of mathematics can be both consistent and complete.
5.        Mathematics is mechanically (or algorithmically) inexhaustible (or incompletable)

Certainly if mathematics, as the foundation of science, is without limit, that at least suggests that other aspects of reality are also without limit, inexhaustible, and contain “undecidable propositions.” There is no reason that this limitlessness should be necessarily limited to mathematics. Godel actually believed that he had demonstrated the truth of Platonism, but neglected to publish that further proof. This proof certainly does imply that “truths” are discovered from a larger field of reality rather than merely created as an arbitrary convenience.

Godel certainly believed that although brain states might be mathematically determined as measured by such things as electo-encephalograms or brain imaging techniques, nevertheless, neither of those techniques nor any other mathematically based technique could [even in theory] predict or determine the richness of consciousness. He was certainly accurate regarding the limitations of the abilities of digital systems like computers to emulate consciousness, and was a consultant to the Artificial Intelligence community until his death.

Observing Ego

There is a rather delightful aphorism from the yogic traditions, which will paraphrase, and perhaps mangle a bit:

I have feelings, but I am not my feelings.  I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

This pearl of exceptional wisdom should probably be on a plaque on the wall of every therapist and psychiatrist in the world.  For this is, in essence, the purpose of many forms of psychotherapy.  In cognitive models one learns to identify negative thoughts as not intrinsic to the person.  In psychodynamic models, one learns that we are distinct from the patterns we unconsciously repeat in life.  In family therapy on learns that one is affected by and affects the family system but is not identical to it.  This is the essence of developing an observing ego.

Neuroplasticity

Although epiphenomenalism may be assumed true by both doctors and patients alike, since it seems to match data related to impaired neurological function, some of the research in neuroplasticity refutes the entire concept of epiphenomenalism. Early research demonstrated that when people learn new skills, such as typing or piano, that areas of the motor cortex of the brain actually increase in size to match. Later research demonstrated new brain connections, after some forms of brain injury, sometimes form to areas of the brain which would otherwise have processed information from different areas of function. This process actually restores the lost functioning, even with different areas of the brain processing the information.

Although these studies were fascinating as they showed the neuronal connections and biological functioning of the brain changed as a result of essentially newly learned tasks, some researchers minimized the results with arguments that this was largely a unique ability for repair following injury. One of the more recent studies was a true paradigm changer. In this research, Tibetan Buddhist monks participated in functional brain imaging studies while practicing a compassion based meditation technique. The finding was astounding: monks showed a novel Gamma brainwave pattern in the frontal lobe, which correlated with the subjective sense of blissfulness. This brainwave pattern had never been seen in any non-pathological state before, and its presence and strength was only related to the number of hours of meditative practice. No other demographic factors correlated with the finding, which suggested a clear circumstance in which willed meditative practice altered brain function over extended practice.

Since epiphenomenalism requires that mental process is only an accidental byproduct of neuronal firing, there is no conceivable way that mental process could actually effect the biological structure. This latest research proves just the opposite: that mental process changes the biology of the brain. Clearly then, any form of biological monism cannot account for this research finding. A different model is needed which accounts for the research data.