(This is a guest post by Evan Fales about Deepak Chopra’s recent challenge to the new atheists.)
This is a publicity stunt. He’s smart enough to have picked what may be the biggest unsolved puzzle for naturalism. At the same time, his challenge is seriously vague in its wording. What exactly does he mean by ‘biological basis’? Would an invariant neurological correlate of a mental event-type do? A neurological cause? Does he need identity? Supervenience? What counts as a “valid” scientific explanation? True? Serious contender? He’s got goal-posts he can move backwards, sideways, up-side down.
I actually have a possible solution for the qualia problem. But it depends upon a solution to what I think is really the most fundamental (and hard) problem of consciousness: the problem of (original) intentionality. (Computers have imputed, or derived intentionality: their operations “mean” what they do because we assign a semantics – and interpretation – to their syntactic operations. But our mental states intend what content they have originally – not because it’s assigned to our minds by some other mind.) I have no idea how to understand this physicalistically. On the other hand, I have no idea how to understand it theistically either. God could make a brain (I suppose), and impute semantic content to its operations (just as we can do for a computer), but how would he insert original intentionality into the thing? I’m sure Chopra has no better explanation of that than I do.
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