If there is one thing that really gets hardcore skeptics riled up it is models of consciousness which are founded upon quantum physics. The standard criticism is that there is no concrete evidence that consciousness emerges – or is mediated – at this level. This is a very strange criticism indeed, given that mainstream neuroscience is founded upon the completely unsubstantiated assumption that consciousness emerges at the neuronal level, or at least via modules of neurons. And what exactly is consciousness? If it is nothing other than than the machinations of brain cells, then it should not exist, for clearly the experience of consciousness is not the same thing as the firing of a cell. Given that it is something else, what exactly is that something else? Eliminative materialism says that there is no consciousness. It is an illusion. But then whose illusion is it? How can a non-conscious organism have an illusion? For the very concept of illusion requires consciousness or awareness.
Clearly the issue with quantum consciousness is not that it lacks evidence or theory, as it is no more lacking in that respect than mainstream models. The issue is that it violates tenets of reductive materialism and the mechanistic universe. It typically suggests that consciousness has non-local properties, and correlates well with various eastern and mystical spiritual traditions. Given that the existence of the extended mind is now beyond any reasonable doubt scientifically (nicely summarised by Craig Weiler), and is an experience common to the vast majority of people and cultures throughout history, the fear of the concept is truly irrational.
At the very least, we should encourage scientific exploration of the unknown. Ridiculing frontier science is by definition against the spirit of scientific inquiry. It hurts nobody but the egos of those whose careers and worldviews rest within territory that the new frontier threatens to transcend.
With this in mind, I present to you a nice, short summary of Stuart Hammeroff’s quantum model of consciousness. Hammeroff has worked closely with Roger Penrose on the problem of consciousness. Interestingly, this is a TEDx talk given quite recently – and nobody seems to be suggesting that it be censured, as were the Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake talks.