Robert Lanza Discovers Idealism

See this article in The American Scholar.

A stem cell researcher has discovered the novel idea that the world in whole or in part is a mental construct. Anticipating Immanuel Kant a few hundred years after the fact, Lanza suggests that the mind creates the spacio-temperal world where the rest of reality plays out.

In regard to Lanza’s fascination with Zeno’s Paradox, granted, biology majors wouldn’t necessarily study Aristotle, but aren’t they required to take at least a semester of business calculus?

And quantum mechanics isn’t so mystical these days. The controversial observer-relative “collapse of the wave function” found in the copenhegan interpretation of quantum mechanics isn’t nearly as fashionable to physicists today as it was thirty years ago. Interpretations of QM are the realm of metaphysics, not squarely laboratory and mathematical science.

However, more importantly than the fact that Lanza fails to slay his beast, his arrow doesn’t even release in the right direction. Paraphrasing Chalmers, he sets up his objective:

These theories reflect some of the important work that is occurring in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but they are theories of structure and function. They tell us nothing about how the performance of these functions is accompanied by a conscious experience

As a solution he offers:

Space and time, not proteins and neurons, hold the answer to the problem of consciousness. When we consider the nerve impulses entering the brain, we realize that they are not woven together automatically, any more than the information is inside a computer. Our thoughts have an order, not of themselves, but because the mind generates the spatio-temporal relationships involved in every experience. We can never have any experience that does not conform to these relationships, for they are the modes of animal logic that mold sensations into objects.

In other words, like Kant, Lanza skirts physicalism and wanders the terrain of functionalism. Chalmers would no doubt have to ask him, “After you’ve delineated the function of the ‘mind’ generating spacio-temperal relationships, where is the conscious experience?” So for all of the gap theorists out there, it looks like consciousness, unfortunately, is still a mystery.


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