Sheldrake's Morphogenic Field - Innovation (Evolution)

by dhw, Sunday, September 25, 2016, 12:26 (246 days ago) @ BBella

Thank you, BBella, for your detailed response to my post. I hope you won't mind, but I'd like to pick out and juggle with those sections of your reply that I find problematical, as they may help us to move a bit deeper into the subject.

Dhw: The information and the collective memories may allow for innovation, but they do not cause it.
BBELLA: This is the question then, and maybe where Sheldrake and I may differ (though I am not sure unless I discussed it with him): do "they" cause it? Is the collective information of all that IS also the acting intelligent collective conscious of all that IS? For me, there is no question, and here is why:
Subtract all information and all collective memory from all that IS, and what would we have? Would there be anything for an intelligent, conscious observer to view? Even more importantly, could there then be any intelligence if there were no memory or no collected information to gather from? Would there even be consciousness if there is no memory of information to be conscious of?

And your post ends with a crucial question, which I shall come back to later: “What is consciousness if there is nothing to be conscious of?”

If we narrow the field to life on Earth and evolution, I think my own problem will become clearer. Inanimate matter is full of information. However, I find it hard to believe that a stone has consciousness. But I know from experience that I can use the information embedded in the stone in order actively to influence the world around me. (I can break somebody's window with it.) This simple fact leads to what I think is the crucial difference between us at this juncture of the debate:

BBELLA: I have difficulty separating the collective information from the collector as easily as you (maybe Sheldrake as well) seem to be able to do. Is there a separation? If there is a separation, where would the line be drawn? And what would the one be like without the other?

This is basically the clash between holism and atomism. The ALL THAT IS comprises every element, conscious and unconscious, and all are interdependent, but that does not mean the parts can't or don't have an existence of their own. I can't throw the stone if there is no stone, and the information can't be extracted from the stone and used by me if there is no me. And so on the holistic level there is no separation, but on the atomic level there is, and each is as valid (in my view) as the other.

This brings us to innovation. Of course no organism can innovate if (a) it doesn't exist, (b) it has no environment, (c) it has no existing information to work with. But if it is conscious of the information contained in itself and in its environment (more generally, in the morphic field), it can use that information to invent. The invention will provide new information which in turn will become part of the morphic field. The latter is not static, but expands in a never ending process of development.

However, you have asked: "Is the collective information of all that IS also the acting intelligent collective conscious of all that IS?" As I see it, that would remove the individuality of all organisms (including humans) from the picture. As David says, it is the universal consciousness he calls God (if we leave out all the religious attributes). In my evolutionary hypothesis, I have allowed for David's God to endow individual organisms with their own consciousness, and his belief in human free will follows the same principle, which means that holism and atomism can still live together, though David's concession is much more limited than mine. Your proposal makes no concession at all. If the ALL THAT IS is actively conscious and individuals cannot add to existing information (because it is the conscious WHOLE that invents), all life forms are puppets. Maybe we are. But common sense and daily observation tell me we are not. I think technology, the arts, languages, our often murderous economic and social systems all suggest that at different times humans have used existing information to create new information. And I would suggest that all the natural wonders David has shown us, and all the different forms of life that have come and gone, also indicate a continuous process of individual organisms changing the morphic fields through their own consciousness, as opposed to a collective consciousness making all the decisions.

I don't know if I've fully understood the ideas you are trying to express, as we are dealing with very complex issues here, so forgive me if I've got it wrong, but do please put me right.

And so to your question: "What is consciousness if there is nothing to be conscious of?" I couldn't agree more. And this is one reason why David's God is so difficult for me to believe in. If God is pure conscious energy, what did pure conscious energy have to be conscious of through the eternity of its past existence?

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