Reality (General)

by dhw, Monday, August 12, 2019, 13:23 (72 days ago) @ dhw


TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)
In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

dhw: This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t.

TONY: Well, not precisely. Chemical communication does not require a consciousness, just something that can interpret the signal. If non-biological communication does exist, it certainly varies in degree, just as biological signalling does.

DAVID: This is the point I keep making: cells make chemical signals which do not require a conscious interpretation, but just an automatic chemical response.

David wrongly attributed Tony’s comment to me. We are talking about molecular biology, and lots of organisms use chemical signals to communicate. These include bacteria, which are single cells. Many scientists agree that they are sentient, communicative, cooperative, decision-making, and therefore intelligent. Of course their “consciousness” is not comparable to ours, but David’s theory that 3.8 billion years ago his God preprogrammed every single bacterial response to every single new problem for the rest of time seems to me less likely than the (theistic) theory that his God gave them the intelligence to work out their own solutions. This would also apply to our own cell communities which at some time in the past cooperated to produce every individual organ in our bodies, and which continue (now mainly automatically) to cooperate in enabling those organs to function. (See also below.)

dhw: I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.

TONY: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.

Then you are clearly thinking your way into some kind of panpsychism (which of course does not exclude a God).

DAVID: I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.

TONY: And I am not claiming that it is, any more than we claim that our cells are. However, our dumb unconscious cells somehow work together to produce, or at least support, consciousness. If it is possible that our dumb cells do it, why is it impossible on a higher level?

I object to the assumption that our cells are dumb and unconscious (see above), although no one knows the source of consciousness. Clearly there are different levels of consciousness, but I share David’s doubts about dumb dirt, and even about rocks and waters and stars and gases having any level of consciousness. However, life and consciousness are either the result of top-down creation (God) or bottom-up evolution (the most rudimentary consciousness, formed by chance and evolving to higher levels). I myself am unable to choose between the two. Whatever may be the objective reality is beyond the reach of my subjective perception - and also of my subjective powers of interpretation!

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