Mod+ 250. DR. JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO EXPLAIN PERSONHOOD

#61
I can't imagine a cell not having some residual (un)consciousness. Life started with single cells. Those cells came together in times of scarcity then separated in times of abundance. Eventually they stayed together. Eventually they differentiated functions, and eventually they became, well, us. To square this off with us being conscious, I think we must assume that cells have residual consciousness . . . that somehow melds into the whole. Else it seems one has to assume meat puppets grew without consciousness till at a certain point they were suddenly endowed with it.
 
#62
I can't imagine a cell not having some residual (un)consciousness. Life started with single cells. Those cells came together in times of scarcity then separated in times of abundance. Eventually they stayed together. Eventually they differentiated functions, and eventually they became, well, us. To square this off with us being conscious, I think we must assume that cells have residual consciousness . . . that somehow melds into the whole. Else it seems one has to assume meat puppets grew without consciousness till at a certain point they were suddenly endowed with it.
It seems more likely to me that consciousness is something that penetrated our physical universe and found a way to survive in it. It was that primordial ooze that attracted the attention of "consciousness", whatever that is. Consciousness wanted to discover this universe and had to create biological cells, like vessels, to explore this world. Consciousenss is not an accident, but is an adventure, an exploration by something that exists beyond this universe. That is probably why we continue to explore everything we come into contact with.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#63
I'm not convinced bits of consciousness can form a united consciousness. But then it's not like any explanation is 100% satisfactory yet...

I like the idea of consciousness being adventure though, and the idea that it entered the physical plane is an interesting one. Reminds me of the silver mirror stuff that was God in Invisibles - though Grant Morrison seemed to be riffing off the idea William Blake had (or his own transcendental 'abduction' experience in Kathmandu) , that the body is just the part of the soul you can apprehend through your body's limited senses.

eta: Here's the description of the magic mirror:

 
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#64
I'm not convinced bits of consciousness can form a united consciousness.
I don't understand it, but I explain it to myself using the analogy of supercomputer that is made up of individual pc's. You can sit at one pc and use it as a pc or you can use it as a console to the supercomputer. Each pc is an individual and also part of a greater unit at the same time. I don't know if that analogy is accurate but its something to sink my mental teeth into. It is more to explain the soul group, or the higher-self / over soul that reincarnates facets of itself, or some ideas of God, rather than the rock and its pieces, although if consciousness applies to that case, the analogy might apply there too.
 
#65
I can't imagine a cell not having some residual (un)consciousness. Life started with single cells. Those cells came together in times of scarcity then separated in times of abundance. Eventually they stayed together. Eventually they differentiated functions, and eventually they became, well, us. To square this off with us being conscious, I think we must assume that cells have residual consciousness . . . that somehow melds into the whole. Else it seems one has to assume meat puppets grew without consciousness till at a certain point they were suddenly endowed with it.
Maybe life was designed and created for the purpose of consciousness (which caused the big bang) to use as vehicles for incarnation.
 
#67
David,

Why do you think cells are probably conscious?
Well, first of all, there doesn't seem to be any clear criterion as to which creatures are conscious, and single cells can behave in remarkably intelligent ways:
http://www.basic.northwestern.edu/g-buehler/genomes/genome.htm

Of course, they contain no neurons, so the idea is vaguely heretical to conventional science.

From a strictly materialist perspective, the concept of consciousness becomes a bit vague, just as they have no definition of life - it is more a term of convenience, like the definition of a planet.

However, the more I read about biochemistry, the more incredible I find the idea that it all runs without any control (I am a former chemist). The really incredible thing about life, even at the single cell level, is that myriads of reactions happen in a coordinated way, and the whole thing doesn't clog up almost instantly with bi-products of various sorts.

My hunch would be that consciousness and life itself are both manifestations of a non-material extension to reality.

David
 
#68
Well, first of all, there doesn't seem to be any clear criterion as to which creatures are conscious, and single cells can behave in remarkably intelligent ways:
http://www.basic.northwestern.edu/g-buehler/genomes/genome.htm

Of course, they contain no neurons, so the idea is vaguely heretical to conventional science.

From a strictly materialist perspective, the concept of consciousness becomes a bit vague, just as they have no definition of life - it is more a term of convenience, like the definition of a planet.

However, the more I read about biochemistry, the more incredible I find the idea that it all runs without any control (I am a former chemist). The really incredible thing about life, even at the single cell level, is that myriads of reactions happen in a coordinated way, and the whole thing doesn't clog up almost instantly with bi-products of various sorts.

My hunch would be that consciousness and life itself are both manifestations of a non-material extension to reality.

David
I think that's why they called it alchemy (magic) 500 years ago. I still like to hope that there are still some surprises within the chemistry that might even surprise physicists.
 
#69
Well, first of all, there doesn't seem to be any clear criterion as to which creatures are conscious, and single cells can behave in remarkably intelligent ways:
http://www.basic.northwestern.edu/g-buehler/genomes/genome.htm

Of course, they contain no neurons, so the idea is vaguely heretical to conventional science.

From a strictly materialist perspective, the concept of consciousness becomes a bit vague, just as they have no definition of life - it is more a term of convenience, like the definition of a planet.

However, the more I read about biochemistry, the more incredible I find the idea that it all runs without any control (I am a former chemist). The really incredible thing about life, even at the single cell level, is that myriads of reactions happen in a coordinated way, and the whole thing doesn't clog up almost instantly with bi-products of various sorts.

My hunch would be that consciousness and life itself are both manifestations of a non-material extension to reality.

David
What role do you think consciousness plays in the operation of the cell?

I don't understand why you say it runs without any control. There are so many controls that cells are likened to cybernetic systems and that is considered an argument that cells could not arise naturally, because a cybernetic system could not arise naturally. There is feedback in metabolic pathways, controls that turn genes on and off etc etc.
 
#70
What role do you think consciousness plays in the operation of the cell?

I don't understand why you say it runs without any control. There are so many controls that cells are likened to cybernetic systems and that is considered an argument that cells could not arise naturally, because a cybernetic system could not arise naturally. There is feedback in metabolic pathways, controls that turn genes on and off etc etc.
Well yes there are, but take a look at a Rube Goldberg machine to see what I mean:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine

The joke about those 'machines' is that they would never work in practice, and I can't help thinking that you need some sort of overall control to avoid all those feedback loops and local controls you describe breaking down in one way or another. An overall control knows what the purpose of the system is, and can make adjustments to ensure it achieves its purpose.

It is worth reading Rupert Sheldrake, and his ideas on morphogenetic fields.

Don't forget that a living organism (larger perhaps than a single cell) not only has to survive when perfect, but also has to survive after a certain amount of arbitrary damage has been inflicted on it.

Also, although those feedback loops have been described as 'cybernetic' this may exaggerate their perfection - for example, the right molecule may fail to bind with a particular receptor just because some other molecule bumps it out of the way! All those components are going to be subject to some noise.

Things run a lot better with something in control that can think about what it is for!

David
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#71
I think that's why they called it alchemy (magic) 500 years ago. I still like to hope that there are still some surprises within the chemistry that might even surprise physicists.
The alchemical concept of a subtle body between the Imaginal-Phenomenal and Material worlds seems like it might make a comeback as some philosophers are raising up the possibility of substance dualism...

Could also fit in well with Bohm's Implicate-Explicate Order:

"Consciousness is much more of the implicate order than is matter . . . Yet at a deeper level [matter and consciousness] are actually inseparable and interwoven, just as in the computer game the player and the screen are united by participation."
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#72
What role do you think consciousness plays in the operation of the cell?

I don't understand why you say it runs without any control. There are so many controls that cells are likened to cybernetic systems and that is considered an argument that cells could not arise naturally, because a cybernetic system could not arise naturally. There is feedback in metabolic pathways, controls that turn genes on and off etc etc.
In the final lecture of Nobel winning biologist George Wald, he ruminates on the consciousness of cells:

George Wald: Life and Mind in the Universe

(Skeptiko thread here.)

I used to show students a film made by the French zoologist Faure‑Fremiet on the feeding behavior of protozoa. Many of our sturdiest concepts of the apparatus required for animal behavior are mocked by these animalcules, particularly by the ciliates; for in one cell they do everything: move about, react to stimuli, feed, digest, excrete, on occasion copulate and reproduce. In this film one saw them encountering problems and solving them, much as would a mammal. I remember best a carnivorous protozoon tackling a microscopic bit of muscle. It took hold of the end of a fibril, and backed off at an angle, as though to tear it loose. When the fibril would not give, the protozoon came in again, then backed away at a new angle, worrying the fibril loose, much as a dog might have done, worrying loose a chunk of meat. It was hard, watching that single cell at work, not to anthropomorphize. Did it know what it was doing?

But then, ciliate protozoa are the most complex cells we know. How about a cell highly specialized to perform a single function in a higher organism, a nerve cell for example, that can only transmit an impulse? Once, years ago, I was visiting the invertebrate physiologist, Ladd Prosser, at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He took me into his laboratory, where he was recording the electrical responses from a single nerve cell in the ventral nerve cord (which takes the place of our spinal cord) of a cockroach. It was set up to display the electrical potentials on an oscilloscope screen, and simultaneously to let them sound through a loudspeaker. I was hearing a slow, rhythmic reverberation, coming to a peak, then falling off to silence, then starting again, each cycle a few seconds, like a breathing rhythm. Prosser remarked, “That kind of response is typical of a dying nerve cell.”

“My God!” I said, “It’s groaning! You’ve given it a voice, and it’s groaning!”

Was that nerve cell expressing a conscious distress? Is something like that the source of a person’s groaning? There is no way whatever of knowing.

So that is the problem of mind -- consciousness -- a vast, unchartable domain that includes all science, yet that science cannot deal with, has no way of approaching; not even to identify its presence or absence; that offers nothing to measure, and nothing to locate, since it has no location.
 
#73
I suppose prior beliefs influence one's interpretation of cells. I think cells were designed so I see their amazing abilities as caused by design not consciousness. Explaining those abilities as due to consciousness seems to me to be necessary for those whose point of view leans more towards a natural origin for cells.

Do cells have to learn? If their abilities required consciousness, wouldn't they have to learn? Whereas if their abilities were due to molecular machinery those abilities would be hard wired and would not have to be learned.
 
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#74
I suppose prior beliefs influence one's interpretation of cells. I think cells were designed so I see their amazing abilities as caused by design not consciousness. Explaining those abilities as due to consciousness seems to me to be necessary for those whose point of view leans more towards a natural origin for cells.

Do cells have to learn? If their abilities required consciousness, wouldn't they have to learn? Whereas if their abilities were due to molecular machinery those abilities would be hard wired and would not have to be learned.
I think cells are both designed and conscious (on some level).

I think as an idea for grappling with multiple conscious entities making up larger conscious entities we might look to those analogies of a mirror surrounded by mirrors for a clue or a jumping off place . . . perhaps?

It's certainly tricky.
 
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#75
In the final lecture of Nobel winning biologist George Wald, he ruminates on the consciousness of cells:

George Wald: Life and Mind in the Universe

(Skeptiko thread here.)
This is excellent food for thought, Sci. I think you oughta start a thread in CD on it as an example of the challenges science faces with explaining consciousness . . . The idea of cellular intelligence seems to be an angle not often discussed.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#76
This is excellent food for thought, Sci. I think you oughta start a thread in CD on it as an example of the challenges science faces with explaining consciousness . . . The idea of cellular intelligence seems to be an angle not often discussed.
Oh, I put it in the Life thread - people should feel free to comment there, and maybe if it gets extensive make a new thread. Figure the Resources threads can some commentary though.

I might try to find out more on cellular level intelligence before I make an argument for it. I know Hammeroff has talked about it when discussing what led him to Orch-OR's Platonism/Panpsychism but I know little else.
 
#77
Oh, I put it in the Life thread - people should feel free to comment there, and maybe if it gets extensive make a new thread. Figure the Resources threads can some commentary though.

I might try to find out more on cellular level intelligence before I make an argument for it. I know Hammeroff has talked about it when discussing what led him to Orch-OR's Platonism/Panpsychism but I know little else.
Cool.

I think it's just a really, really interesting subject that (at least possibly) throws yet another monkey wrench into all of our ideas about consciousness.
 
#78
I suppose prior beliefs influence one's interpretation of cells. I think cells were designed so I see their amazing abilities as caused by design not consciousness. Explaining those abilities as due to consciousness seems to me to be necessary for those whose point of view leans more towards a natural origin for cells.
To me, it is quite the opposite! Materialists are very uncomfortable with the idea of consciousness - ideally they like explanations that don't include it! We know consciousness exists for higher organisms, and if we are to believe what happens in NDE's, it doesn't need a complex mass of neurons to work. That makes it reasonably plausible that life itself makes use of consciousness.
Do cells have to learn? If their abilities required consciousness, wouldn't they have to learn? Whereas if their abilities were due to molecular machinery those abilities would be hard wired and would not have to be learned.
There are some experiments that show that they actually do learn. Think how much more effective a cell can be with a bit of intelligence and consciousness.

We tend to take biochemistry for granted, but it is really quite extraordinary when compared with ordinary chemistry. Ordinary reactions almost never give 100% yields, and desired products have to be laboriously separated from the crud. OK, we accept that enzymes are more efficient at doing things, but we seem to forget the sheer scale of the difference between bench chemistry and what goes on in a cell. A chemist typically has to purify most if not all intermediates in a synthesis. In a cell we have millions (I think, but certainly a lot) of different reactions on the go at once, and some cells last for years!

Possibly we can get blinded to a mystery by just becoming accustomed to it!

David
 
#79
To me, it is quite the opposite! Materialists are very uncomfortable with the idea of consciousness - ideally they like explanations that don't include it! We know consciousness exists for higher organisms, and if we are to believe what happens in NDE's, it doesn't need a complex mass of neurons to work. That makes it reasonably plausible that life itself makes use of consciousness.


There are some experiments that show that they actually do learn. Think how much more effective a cell can be with a bit of intelligence and consciousness.

We tend to take biochemistry for granted, but it is really quite extraordinary when compared with ordinary chemistry. Ordinary reactions almost never give 100% yields, and desired products have to be laboriously separated from the crud. OK, we accept that enzymes are more efficient at doing things, but we seem to forget the sheer scale of the difference between bench chemistry and what goes on in a cell. A chemist typically has to purify most if not all intermediates in a synthesis. In a cell we have millions (I think, but certainly a lot) of different reactions on the go at once, and some cells last for years!

Possibly we can get blinded to a mystery by just becoming accustomed to it!

David
I completely agree with you David. Though I'm curious as to your take on how, specifically our, cells are conscious and yet we, as whole individuals, seem to be separately conscious. How do you make sense of that?
 
#80
life itself makes use of consciousness.
I would say consciousness makes use of life, and I think that difference in outlook explains a lot. I don't reject the possibility that cells are conscious, it just seems to me to be an unnecessary hypothesis. I give it creedence because of some of the things NDErs say not because of the biological, biochemical facts.

Are you implying biological reactions yield 100% yields? Enzymes are catalysts and they increase the rates of reactions by lowering the activation energy, they don't change the stoichiometry of the reactions. Cells produce and excrete waste (crud). There are many reactions going on in the cell but the cell has a highly organized internal structure and compartmentalization. It isn't just a vat of chemicals it is like a factory with assembly lines.

I still don't understand the role you think consciousness plays in the cell. Does the cell think "my amino acid levels are out of balance, I have to make more alanine"? Consciousness doesn't help an animal adjust its cholesterol levels, how does consciousness help a cell manage biochemical reactions?
 
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