In this video, Daniel Dennett discusses the necessity of 'deflating' consciousness in order to make it eligible for scientific explanation. By deflating, he means removing the facets of our perception whereby consciousness is left untouchable to the rational enquirer, too amazing, too vast, too mystical to comprehend.
It is certainly true that many people would be thoroughly perturbed by the idea that their entire conscious existence is reductable. Such a realisation would no doubt push many to the brink of depression or dejection. They don't want to know that everything they understand to be true about existence could be seen as the subjective experience of the brain in its current phase within the evolutionary process, that everything they have ever understood or been able to understand, or loved or hated, or admired or feared is subject to hypothesis, experimentation and scientific explanation.
Many people would claim that so much of what they are or what they believe in is unexplainable, unreductable. This quickly leads to the claim that such things are sacred, and should not be given to examination. The role of language plays a key part in this defence... if it can not be expressed in language then it is beyond explanation, beyond enquiry, and therefore scared or holy. God, if you like, is beyond language so God must be immune to rational enquiry.
Gerald Edelman takes this a stage further and describes the emergence of language as the tipping point where the primate transcended 'primary consciousness' (i.e. the identification of a banana as food) and began to explore 'higher-order' consciousness (i.e. the identification of a banana as food coupled with the existential lament that one must climb the tree to get the banana if one is to survive, or indeed the belief that an intelligent designer must have created the tree on which the banana grows). He writes:
"The emergence of the self leads to a refinement of phenomenological experience, tying feelings to thoughts, to culture, and to beliefs. It liberates the imagination and opens thought to the vast domains of metaphor."Therefore language as a means of contextualising the self leaves room for interpretation of conscious process as amazing, mystical, transcendent. "Surely there must be more! Surely we can just be physical, we are spiritual beings!"
Just remember the hackneyed cliche that, before Galileo, people wholeheartedly believed the Sun circled the Earth. It took scientific examination to reveal this widespread conviction to be false. Just because consciousness seems to be too vast to comprehend now, we may have to start readjusting our deeply ingrained faith in the fact that some things simply can't be explained.