‘Don’t speak too loud Doreen, the radiator’s listening in’
This is the stuff of Pixar. We’ve all seen Toy Story…and yes, if you didn’t cry during the 3rd one then I will completely throw away the concept that everyone is a lovely little soul. Here’s a serious question…could it be in real life that Wall-E is actually alive? Could the radiator have some level of consciousness? How can we know for sure?
If you haven’t been following the news and controversies recently in evolution theory (sacred term and therefore emboldened for effect), then I’ll break it to you that we are finally witnessing the downfall of Humpty Dumpty, with regards to the emergent properties theory of life and consciousness. Like the eye of Solomon in Lord of the Rings, ‘science’ is now rotating its philosophical stance, and putting its eggs in a basket which was woven long ago.
Panpsychism is historically identified with the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who stated, “Omnia quamvis diversis gradibus, animata sunt“… that everything in existence is to one degree or another animate, or conscious.
So rather than say that life and consciousness emerge out of some lucky arrangement of atoms, instead this theory claims that consciousness is just a feature of nature. According to this view, even an atom would have some dim atomic awareness, and as more complex organizations of matter developed, then correspondingly more complex forms of consciousness would emerge.
Pretty cool hey? And actually, I like it, and I agree on one level (which I will go into in great length in later posts!)…but, we’ve got an issue. And unfortunately, once again, it’s a biggy…imagine you’ve got lots of atoms, each with a wee bit of awareness that they’re an atom. But for bigger and more complicated things to emerge, such as molecules, organelles, cells (tiny factories), organs and organisms, there logically must be a higher intelligence providing a framework around which that is possible.
What I mean is, if every atom is somehow separately conscious, then what mechanism integrates their awareness? Why should an oxygen atom in a human brain, for instance, feel any different than when it is in a piece of wood? And since the brain is merely a combination of various atoms, why is the brain’s consciousness unified and not just a mere addition of all these atomic consciousnesses? A Nobel-laureate neurobiologist has exclaimed:
“Hitherto it has been impossible to develop any neurophysiological theory that explains how a diversity of brain events comes to be synthesized so that there is a unified conscious experience of a global or gestalt character. The brain events remain disparate, being essentially the individual actions of countless neurones that are built into complex circuits.” — John C. Eccles (not the genius behind Eccles cakes, although I do like the town)
It’s not just Prof Eccles who has become perplexed by this conundrum…even the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, frustratingly admitted:
“From an evolutionary point of view, I regard the self-conscious mind as an emergent product of the brain. … Now I want to emphasize how little is said by saying that the mind is an emergent product of the brain. It has practically no explanatory value, and it hardly amounts to more than putting a question mark in a certain place in human evolution.”
Soon we’ll get onto the juicy stuff, and I’m excited to be proposing a super ancient take on the following questions…and to be honest, those guys 5,000 years ago blew the game out of the water, so get ready to fasten your seatbelts 🙂
– What is the mind and where does it come from?
– Are we the mind, or what on Earth are we if not the body?
– What is life?
– What is consciousness?
Oh yes, and of course a quote to end…
“We feel and know that we are eternal” — Spinoza