consciousness

Homepage Forums Science consciousness

This topic contains 20 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 1 week ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #24727

    mike
    Participant

    I have often wondered what it would be like to live the unfettered life of a butterfly. Does a butterfly have self-doubt, worry, guilt, or regret? It seems not. Similarly, a dog’s life might be agreeable; whose greatest concern might be, when will his companion arrive home with something to eat. Does a butterfly or a dog have a consciousness? It is the view of the Panpsychists that consciousness is a universal feature of all organisms. Under this presupposition even a worm is conscious to some degree.

    Is it possible to know the complexity of an organism’s consciousness experience? A conceivable approach to understanding what is going on in the minds of animals, other than Homo sapiens, is to equate our experience.

    Our consciousness is observed as a layering of differing levels of self-expression. The perceived internal conversation emerges as a loud voice at higher levels, and an inaudible expression at lower levels. Graduations of conscious awareness parallel regions of the human brain that are at analogous degrees of evolutionary development. Each level has its own quality of communication and is expressed by a corresponding region of the brain. The imperceptible manifestations are where we have no conscious awareness or control, but still consciousness exists in these primitive parts of our brain. One of the ancient partitions to develop in our primal ancestors is the brain stem. The brain stem relays signals from the spinal cord and directs basic internal functions and reflexes. It functions, in conjunction with other regions, as part of the autonomic nervous system. We direct our heart to beat, or our lungs to expand and take a breath. We can demonstrate exercising governance over deep levels of autonomic control mechanisms: by consciously taking control of breathing. Normally part of the autonomic nervous system; we may at any time say, “I have control” and breath deep or shallow as we wish. The first lesson of mindfulness meditation uses breath control exercises to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid.

    We do not hear the thought that directs our heart to, “beat now”, but as we move up degrees of consciousness to more advanced parts of the brain, the inner expression gets louder. It is conveyed, at one level, as that tiny deliberation in the recesses of our mind we call a conscience. The level of consciousness becomes louder and louder in the most advanced part of the human brain: the prefrontal cortex. This is the area associated with concentration, emotion and other higher brain functions and is the realm of our “ego”, which is a sense of our personal identity. We can have internal dialogs at this level that are expressed using language. The experience of meditation is described as shedding one’s ego. It is expressed as obtaining a “higher” level of consciousness.

    It is said deep meditators exercise more control over “higher” states of consciousness. It is my contention that meditation allows more control over “lower” primitive states of consciousness by purging the distraction instigated by our ego. If you were to list the levels or “degrees” of consciousness across species, our lowest level would equal the highest level of an organism with the simplest nervous system: a worm’s. This could demonstrate an evolutionary developmental correlation between levels of consciousness.

    The consciousness experienced by biological organisms, moving up the evolutionary ladder, parallels hierarchical states of consciousness in our anatomically advanced brain. Humans and butterflies share common ancestry. Even though our time on earth is of equal duration Homo sapiens brains evolved more complex anatomy.  A butterfly’s brain, as in all Arthropods, such as other insects and crustaceans, can be said to have primitive brains. They have a nervous system made up of a series of ganglia. A ganglion is a nerve cell cluster that is also present in the spinal cord of humans but in far greater numbers. In both higher and lower evolved organisms this structure is responsible for autonomic functions. We can assume, therefore, that the experience of consciousness in a butterfly tends towards more automatic responses to stimuli.

    As we move up the evolutionary tree to more advanced organisms; for example, fish and reptiles; we see a corresponding increase in the complexity of their respective brain’s anatomy: more neurons and a differentiation into specific brain regions. All these organisms share a common ancestor with Homo sapiens. At the time when we split from them, our experience of consciousness was of the same quality to theirs. Dogs also share a common ancestor with Homo sapiens. A dog’s brain has analogous structures to humans however, over time, our perceptions; our sensations; our intuition; our learning; our understanding and comprehension was equal but then we evolved a greater complexity of conscious states: higher order states of consciousness evolved in our more complex prefrontal cortex. Before humans learned to communicate using language, the voice we hear in our heads would have a quality of expression as it does in animals with less complex anatomical brain structures. We can hear this articulation in the depths of our consciousness as simple directives. We do not verbalize simple commands such as “lift arm now” when we are animated; the command simply arises from the depths. A dog’s brain is rich in sensory stimuli that humans may not experience but, how we perceive and execute the lower directives might have a similar quality. The picture our minds conjures at these lower levels may be akin to the way a dog “thinks”.

    Another way to merge our perception of the conscious experience with less complex brain systems may come from mindfulness meditation practices. Throughout our evolution, levels of consciousness were added, as levels of complexity increased in our brains, to the point where it may be said that humans are burdened by our higher consciousness. If we shed self-doubt, worry, guilt, or regret, using mediation; in essence, we have shed the higher levels where our ego resides. The quality of consciousness left, may be analogous to how it feels to be an animal unburdened by metaphysical concerns. With a life free of ego, we may experience an enlightenment that is ubiquitous in our divested cousins. Contentment may be the nature of the universe.

    #24728

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    We can talk about consciousness, but these theories about consciousness are theories about everyday life.  We can know the validity of our theories about consciousness by seeing how well they match up with everyday life.

    #24729

    The following is from “The End of Faith”, Chapter 6, by Sam Harris.

    The connection between ethics and the scientific understanding of consciousness, while rarely made, is ineluctable, for other creatures become the objects of our ethical concern only insofar as we attribute consciousness (or perhaps potential consciousness) to them. That most of us feel no ethical obligations toward rocks—to treat them with kindness, to make sure they do not suffer unduly—can be derived from the fact that most of us do not believe that there is anything that it is like to be a rock. While a science of consciousness is still struggling to be born, it is sufficient for our purposes to note that the problem of ascertaining our ethical obligations to nonhuman animals (as well as to humans who have suffered neurological injury, to human fetuses, to blastocysts, etc.) requires that we better understand the relationship between mind and matter. Do crickets suffer? I take it as a given that this question is both coherently posed and has an answer, whether or not we will ever be in a position to answer it ourselves.

    This is the point at which our notions about mind and matter directly influence our notions of right and wrong. We should recall that the practice of vivisection was given new life by certain missteps in the philosophy of mind—when Descartes, in thrall to both Christian dogma and mechanistic physics, declared that all nonhuman animals were mere automata, devoid of souls and therefore insensible to pain. One of his contemporaries observed the immediate consequences of this view:

    The scientists administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain. They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body was without feeling. They nailed the poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them to see the circulation of blood, which was a great subject of controversy.

    Cognitive chauvinism of this sort has not merely been a problem for animals. The doubt, on the part of Spanish explorers, about whether or not South American Indians had “souls” surely contributed to the callousness with which they treated them during their conquest of the New World. Admittedly, it is difficult to say just how far down the phylogenic tree our ethical responsibilities run. Our intuitions about the consciousness of other animals are driven by a variety of factors, many of which probably have no bearing upon whether or not they are conscious. For instance, creatures that lack facial expressiveness—or faces at all—are more difficult to include within the circle of our moral concern. It seems that until we more fully understand the relationship between brains and minds, our judgments about the possible scope of animal suffering will remain relatively blind and relatively dogmatic.

    #24730

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think we care about suffering where we see suffering.

    #24731

    Unseen
    Participant

    We come to the mind-body problem. Is consciousness simply an epiphenomenon of the brain, or could one, for example, continue existing—or exist again at a later time—as a conscious being by simply transferring his/her brain contents or patterns to a thumb drive? (In the future, thumb drives will have far greater capacities).

    The Star Trek Transporter Problem comes to mind. If Scotty beams you down to the surface of planet Xenu, does the you who shows up there have the same consciousness or a just a faithful duplicate? and is the beamed you a new you or the same you?

    What consciousness is and what is its nature may not have a satisfactory answer.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by  Unseen.
    #24735

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I have little doubt that a day will come when people will be replicated using genetic information. The person will have the same nature but will be different because of an alternate experience. I suppose this because we evolved from animals that did not possess the magical entity called a conscience.

    #24736

    Anyone watched “Altered Carbon” on Netflix? The rich have their consciousness uploaded every day and if they die it can be downloaded into their new clone. Worth the popcorn.

    #24737

    _Robert_
    Participant

    ness

    #24738

    Unseen
    Participant

    I have little doubt that a day will come when people will be replicated using genetic information. The person will have the same nature but will be different because of an alternate experience. I suppose this because we evolved from animals that did not possess the magical entity called a conscience.

    In other words, you’re saying someday it’ll be possible to clone human nature.

    Now that takes us into very scary territory, does it not? Duplicate psychopathic and pathologically patriotic cops and soldiers, for example.

    I’ve got the shivers.

    #24739

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I have little doubt that a day will come when people will be replicated using genetic information. The person will have the same nature but will be different because of an alternate experience. I suppose this because we evolved from animals that did not possess the magical entity called a conscience.

    In other words, you’re saying someday it’ll be possible to clone human nature. Now that takes us into very scary territory, does it not? Duplicate psychopathic and pathologically patriotic cops and soldiers, for example. I’ve got the shivers.

    You are not made of the same cells you were born with…you have already been replicated many times over.

    #24740

    Unseen
    Participant

    You are not made of the same cells you were born with…you have already been replicated many times over.

    So my body is not me, unless two bodies with exactly the same configuration of cells were both me. See the problem in terms of consciousness? Am I conscious in two places?

    That’s an interesting point, but it’s about as relevant as “no two snowflakes are the same” (no two pieces of popcorn are the same, either, and no two ball bearings, for that matter).

    #24742

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    So let’s say one may experience life someday “exactly” like a butterfly. Apart from the problem of knowing when one has actually achieved the goal, would you, returned back to your human consciousness, really be able to remember exactly what it was like? I’m thinking we’d first have to experiment with simulations. And then it can only be up to whoever the human designers are to determine how best to approximate the experiences.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 3 days ago by  PopeBeanie.
    #24744

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    As for duplicating consciousnesses, there’s still plenty of opportunity to learn how identical twins share the same kinds of thoughts and feelings. Even if their consciousnesses could be made and said to be exactly the same, we still know they’re two different people, right?!

    That’s what gets me about discussions about uploading your own personality into another body (or computer, for that matter), and when some people just assume it’s then ok to dispose of the original consciousness. No thanks. The two different consciousnesses will exist in every respect as completely different entities. Two bodies, two minds. Sure, one body may get old and eventually die, but its disposal should never depend on whether or not a duplicate exists.

    #24745

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Identical twins start with identical DNA but then the DNA begins to change. Environment and cellular level events that seem random to us have a huge impact on what we are at a particular moment. The point is that your consciousnesses is dynamic along with your brain. Can it be thought as some timeless “entity” that can be preserved? I don’t know.

    #24747

    Unseen
    Participant

    Identical twins start with identical DNA but then the DNA begins to change. Environment and cellular level events that seem random to us have a huge impact on what we are at a particular moment. The point is that your consciousnesses is dynamic along with your brain. Can it be thought as some timeless “entity” that can be preserved? I don’t know.

    Identical twins are not really entirely identical physically, and that includes traits generated by their indistinguishable DNA, and I don’t think it’s entirely understood why.

    “Identical twins often share personality traits, interests and habits. They come from the same fertilized egg and share the same genetic blueprint.

    “To a standard DNA test, they are indistinguishable. But any forensics expert will tell you that there is at least one surefire way to tell them apart: identical twins do not have matching fingerprints.” (source)

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.