Brent said: "I always struggle to better understand why people think this way (seems very faithless to me), and what they understand are the real limits to what we can scientifically discover about consciousness and why."
Please expand on why you feel this view is faithless. If you mean that I lack faith in the ability of man to understand consciousness solely through his intellect, then you are correct.
Brent also said: "For example, maybe you think that we could figure out everything about the mind, but perhaps the second coming is about to happen, long before we could ever make this much progress?"
Interesting hypothesis. Indeed, I do believe in the second coming, but the timing of that event is not relevant to the conversation. Given an unlimited amount of time, man will still not fully comprehend how consciousness truly "functions" while he is isolated or separated from the source of that consciousness, which is God.
Brent continued with: "Also, I wonder what you think of qualia vs causal properties of nature. Are qualia important? And if so, do you think a red quale is a property of the surface of a strawberry reflecting 700nm light, or instead a property of our knowledge of such, or something else entirely, or not important...??"
A few thoughts here. First, I confess that I am not really grasping the meaning of Qualia. For instance, the most basic definition I can find for the word suggests that it simply means "what something is like." Also, it seems to have some root connection to the word "quality" which suggests that it refers to the specific character of a thing, or possibly the depth of character for one individual as compared to another individual's perception. By perusing the Representational Qualia Theory camp page, I came across the very brief statement "Qualia represent." Why not simply use the word representation, then? The short answer i find in the camp page is that this does not accurately reflect the mechanics of the phenomenal portion of the perception, yet I somehow don't see how the use of an obscure word makes the explanation any clearer. Then again, maybe that is just me.
But back to your question about a red quale being representational or specifically the result of 700nm light. Imagine a single red strawberry placed before a white background. Observing this strawberry are two human individuals, and two video cameras from different manufacturers. Before I even get into the observations of the human participants, lets discuss the videos. If the video from each is played back on an identical monitor, there will most likely be a variety of differences in hue, contrast, texture detail, etc. These differences are simply the result of varying circuitry, varying lenses, parts made in china, and any number of slight, even microscopic variations in the manufacturing process. Now we know that each and every human is unique, having our own fingerprints, retinas, dna, and so forth. This is true even of identical twins. Why then is our difference in perception attributed to a problem of consciousness, rather than the simple and obvious fact of our differences in circuitry and construction?
That is not to say that there is no "phenomenal" component in our perception. But, here is where I have a problem with Representational Qualia Theory. It seems, at first, to embrace the idea of a spirit, but then qualifies that statement as "spirit" being some phenomenal function of the brain. It calls our skulls "mortal prison walls", and says that "our spirits are still trapped behind this phenomenal veil of perception," but, if our consciousness and "spirit" are simply biological brain functions, then what exactly is trapped? What exactly is held in the prison? It honestly seems as if you are trying to play both sides of the fence with this one. Either there is a spirit, or there is not.
As to whether the study of qualia is even important... I have no real objection to the study of the mechanics of the brain and perception, as far as the biological processes are concerned. However, I personally find the subject of "why" we have consciousness far more compelling than the "hows" of individual perception. It is the classic question of the philosophers of old. "Why am I here?" Quite simply, The Divine Origin stance is, "You are here to make a choice. To be for God, or against Him. To believe God, or reject him." The power of consciousness is in choice, not in perception, not in shades of red or green.
Brent also said: "And do you think such ineffable qualities could ever be comunicated between minds / or spirits? Perhaps such could be done by God, or in some divine way, such that I could find out that your red is more like my green, or something?"
Let me try to rephrase this question the way I think you mean it (correct me if I am wrong). Do I believe a device could be constructed that would show you what my personal perceptions in such a way that they could be compared to your perceptions? In a nut shell, yes. I believe that the biological functions of the senses ultimately boil down to electrical impulses that could be tapped into and shown on a view screen, or perhaps even sent into your mind. For instance, currently there are retinal transplants that can and do happen, but ultimately, I believe that a technique could be perfected for transplanting entire eyes. In that situation, I believe that things would look slightly different when viewed through the "new" eye, as opposed to the original eye. Likewise, I believe a method could be conceived of to transfer the impulses from my brain into yours. This would give you a picture of what I "view" through my eyes, but not necessarily a picture of what I "see." For instance, we are looking at the same cloud in the sky. You see a rabbit in its form, I see a horse. Being able to view the cloud through my eyes would not enable you to see the horse. You would likely still see the rabbit. You would not feel the emotions that I feel in connection with gazing up at the clouds, and remembering my youth. You would not hear the scripture, Mark 13:26 "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." And, all of these things, the memories, the scripture, are stored in my brain. But in the end, it is just useless data without the spirit to interpret it, and coalesce it into a coherent picture all in the twinkling of an eye. I hear your rebuttal already, that this is just a biological function which takes place in another part of the brain, however, life experience has taught me otherwise. Quite simply, the single most logical and reasonable explanation of consciousness, the existence of man, and all of creation for that matter, is the biblical account.
Looking forward to more. :)