slime mold decisions (Introduction)

by dhw, Thursday, June 09, 2016, 10:43 (1200 days ago) @ David Turell

David's comment: I presented this study because it contains the key to our debate over 'intelligence' vs. intelligently planned molecular reactions in unicellular organisms. If the biologic hardware can be found it will tell us how concentrations are read. I suspect it is in molecular feedback loops which are automatically operating and support me. If the 'intelligence' is something else, dhw is supported. 'Intelligence' in quotes to signify a different quality than the human form.

Brilliant! Slime mold (mould to us Brits) is fascinating, and your comment really does sum up the essence of our debate over cellular intelligence. Molecular feedback loops are part of all behaviours, and the question is how they are triggered and controlled. I see a strange dichotomy in your reasoning: you accept that organisms with a brain have some degree of “intelligence”, culminating in the superintelligence (by comparison) of humans. You believe in dualism: i.e. that you have an intelligence which is independent of your brain and controls it. You accept that the same may well apply - to an ever decreasing extent - to other organisms, let's say all the way down from chimps/dogs/dolphins/crows to my good friends the ants. But for you the brain is the key: organisms can only have “intelligence” if they have a brain, although it is the “intelligence” that controls the brain. We have defined “intelligence” as a combination of sentience, cognition, information- processing, problem-solving, decision-making etc., all of which are to be observed in the behaviour of unicellular organisms. As Shapiro, Talbott and others have pointed out, if organisms seem to behave intelligently, maybe that is because they ARE intelligent! And so the question to you has to be: if “intelligence” is separate from the brain, why do you consider it impossible for intelligently behaving organisms without a brain to be “intelligent”?

There is one further aspect to all this, quite apart from that of the source. If I and my fellow agnostics argue on the side of brainless unicellular intelligence, does that commit us to belief in dualism? It will be very interesting to see how Talbott copes with this problem in the next two essays. Meanwhile, three hearty cheers for the slime mould, and thank you, David, for the article and the scrupulously fair comment.


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