Scientists today are content by discarding or disparaging pseudo-scientific or spiritual assumptions about consciousness and its metaphysics.
You probably have heard statements like "quantum physics does not operate on the level of the brain (or at the very least, that there is no reason to assume that it does)" before as an example.
While these statements are rational and required, they in no way constitute a positive hypothesis about the nature of consciousness.
In the times we live in today, there is an exceeding need more than ever before to actually produce positive, not just passive, responses to questions like "what is consciousness?" and "why is there consciousness?". This is because the more we anticipate an "AI singularity", bump into arguments of "living in a simulated universe" (and what that means for how "real" things need to be to exist in physics terms), or creating human-like robots, the more we become curious about the answers to these questions.
In this article I hope to change your mind from only being content of debunking false positives, to actually consider what a true positive might look like.
I start by stating two reasonable statements we tend to accept about consciousness.
First, consciousness is a product of the brain. Brain surgeons and neuroscientists can map certain regions of the brain to certain cognitive or perceptual capabilities of consciousness. While this is in no way a simple relationship, it is well documented and generally accepted to be a real relationship: Without a brain there is no consciousness.
Second, we cannot (yet?) deduce the existence of consciousness from the workings of the brain. While one can study and explain the brain in physical, chemical or biological terms, nobody has yet seemed to have the need in that process to assume that there should also be a consciousness "accompanying" the workings of the brain. The only way we know anything about the existence of consciousness is by being ourselves conscious in nature.
I add to those two statements the assumption that consciousness is not only "caused" but also exists as a given and distinct property of the universe in the same way electric charge or gravity are distinct given properties of the universe.
In the days of Newton, there was skepticism or psychological unease surrounding how two masses can influence each other (through gravity) at a distance. Things seemed to naturally influence each other through physical contact and gravity seemed "unnatural" in that respect. Nevertheless, scientists did and continue to try and accept this behavior as a given that holds true regardless of what psychological unease it produces.
In the same way, I assume the proposition that consciousness can be a given, non-reducible phenomenon of the universe that is as distinct in its nature to other phenomena as is gravity and electric charge to each other.
So, to summarize, while we can accept that atoms in the specific arrangement of a brain produce consciousness, we don't know why it is necessary for it to cause the phenomenon. Towards a physics of consciousness, an assumption like the one I made can explain why so far we /cannot/ deduce consciousness from the brain, but only induce it from our own experience, in the same way one cannot deduce the existence of electricity from gravity, only that they both exist together as basic phenomena.
A true science of consciousness must be able to define the specific arrangement(s) of atoms that spontaneously create consciousness, and how altering the arrangement in quantifiable, measurable ways produces proportional alterations in the conscious state. That is, do that in physical, not biological or biochemical, terms.