The Dawn Treader has been the latest in this neighborhood to discuss whether man is a machine -- a biological machine. Can human consciousness be reduced to "the laws of chemistry and physics plus boundary conditions" acting on matter?
Let's start here: Is the Mona Lisa just paint? Physically, it's just paint. As much as "it's just paint" is not a fair assessment of the Mona Lisa, it's still true: physically, it's just paint. What do we miss when we say that it's just paint? We miss the relationship of the Mona Lisa to the artist who made it, to his mind and to his world, and the meaning that it has because of that relationship.
Let's go one more step: The Mona Lisa amazes us with its artistry precisely because it's just paint. The real marvel that draws us time and again is this: how can you get an effect like that with just paint?
The problem with reductionism is that it does not understand complexity. Reducing something always loses something; otherwise it would not be reducing. The human mind is complex. Can human consciousness be reduced to "the laws of chemistry and physics plus boundary conditions" acting on matter? Well, I actually expect that it can, in the same way that the Mona Lisa has a lot in common, chemically, with some paint buckets in my garage. I expect that we are works of art on such a level that we should marvel, "How can you get those effects with just physics and chemistry?" It takes an amazing artist with vision and a master's command of the medium.