Hey Kyle, thanks for the warm welcome. :) After a brief stint in the real world, I've realized how much it stinks without anyone to talk to about this kind of stuff. It's a legitimate narcotic.
~~"The new guy who just got 'manufactured' on Earth...is he still you?"~~
This question is pretty similar to the concept of the movie "The Sixth Day." If you haven't seen it, it deals with cloning as a method of preserving one's consciousness, and according to the logic of the movie, this process ensures a certain level of immortality. (Plus, it has Schwartzenegger in it! Schwartzenegger + Explosions + Death = Entertaining Flick) Anyway, the basic idea was that if you die for whatever reason, they simply clone you, imprint your most recently uploaded memory image into the clone, and Boom! Resurrection. This idea is easy to buy into (particularly if your eyes are glazed over and your mouth is hanging slack) but once the movie gets to the point where there are 2 Arnies running around at the same time, shooting some things and blowing other things up, it forces you to wonder how such a process could possibly be used to resurrect someone when it seems to generate a new, independent organism that just so happens to share the physical and mental traits of the original DNA donor. It's possible to trick yourself into thinking it's genuine resurrection as long as there's only one clone around at a time, but once duplicates start showing up it demonstrates how that while the memories of each clone may be identical, they are each their own independent biological entity.
I used to be very uncomfortable using reductionism when dealing with consciousness. Throughout my earlier years of thinking about this topic, every model that I tried to make to describe consciousness could not survive my reductionistic testing process. You are absolutely right, reducing consciousness produces very odd, counterintuitive results. The problem is, I really think these results are neccesary. A workable model of consciousness should be able to survive massive amounts of reductionism. Basically, try as I might, I couldn't take any theory on sentience seriously if I couldn't make it answer some simple reductionistic questions. So, as much as I hated doing it, I kept at it, and I've reached the point where I think I have a workable reductionistic model of consciousness, though I too have yet to actually type the sucker up. (This conversation presents a wonderful opportunity to do so.... but, too tired now. Tomorrow sometime.)
~~"when it comes to consciousness, we each feel that we are somehow justified in disputing the scientists because of our own intimate and intuitive relationship with consciousness."~~
We all do have an intuitive relationship with consciousness, and what makes it so difficult to research is that the entire relationship is pretty much *totally* intuitive. Intuitive reasoning doesn't work too well when we're trying to describe a phenomenon objectively. Defining consciousness objectively requires some fancy footwork, particularly if you've never thought about it before. Philosophers and lay-philosophers aside, ask some random person on the street what they think of consciousness, and probably the only thing they'll be able to offer on the matter is a description of the *sensation* of consciousness as an attempt to explain what it is.... breaking free of this proclivity can be a very difficult thing to do. Studying consciousness scientifically is almost insurmountably tricky.
~~"I've got my own personal thoughts on a sort of universal consciousness -- I'll organize my ideas into some reasonably coherent post and share them here one day!"~~
So long and thanks for all the fish