It’s subtle but critically important

It’s broadly agreed these days that consciousness poses a very serious challenge for contemporary science. What I’m trying to work out at the moment is why science has such difficulty with consciousness. We can trace this problem back to its root, at the start of the scientific revolution.

~ Philip Goff from,

I once had a mathematics professor make a comment that it’s fascinating that mathematics is able to explain reality. I double-clutched at the time. And every single time I think about the point he was making, I still pause and my mind reels. If one is looking at—for example—classical mechanics, and one studies the ballistic equations, one can go along nicely using forces and trigonometry, and understand golf balls and baseballs in flight. Soon you realize your mathematics is only an approximation. So you dive into fluid mechanics, which requires serious calculus, and you then understand why golf balls have dimples and why the stitching on baseballs is strictly specified in the rules. All along the way, mathematics models reality perfectly!

But why? So you keep peeling. The math and physics gets more and more complicated—stochastic processes, randomness, quantum mechanics, wave-particle theory, etc.—as each layer answers another “why”… but it’s … is “cyclical” the right word? No matter how far you go, you can always ask “why” again, for the most complex and most accurate system you model and explain.

Down there at the bottom, that’s where Galileo declared there was a distinction between physical reality, and consciousness and the soul. We’ve had hundreds of years of progress via science on what Galileo divided off as “physical reality.” (And that progress is a Very Good Thing.) But as this article explores, is there actually a distinction? What if making that distinction is a mistake?