Why Are We Conscious?

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This topic contains 168 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 2 months ago.

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  • #25966

    michael17
    Participant

    There is life breathed into its cytoplasm.

    Thanks Michael for the very clear and coherent response. Oh how I love reading your replies and trying to figure out how they answer my questions. So I take it as a no for Harry Potter? Is that correct?

    As much as I like the Harry Potter series. You are correct. There’s a veritable soup of RNA present in the cytoplasm responsible for transport, DNA replication, enzymes and receptors etc. but on a singular basis they are non living components and individually can be inserted into a man made cell and not give rise to life

    Here is a scientific perspective:

    Witold Ferens, Ph.D. in Biology (University of Calgary, 1990);

     
    It is not possible to construct a cell from scratch, for several major reasons:

    Cell structure and arrangements of cellular components (membranes in particular) are not directly coded in DNA sequence; they represent a sort of “institutional memory” of a cell, and are replicated through a process of cellular division.
    Constructing a cell would require us to initiate and regulate life processes during transition from non-living to a living state. However, cells do not have a “switch” that would power a cell up or down, like an electric device; the cell components and molecular tools are made, assembled, and activated in a process that is continuous.
    Cells can go through a controlled “power-off” to spend some time in suspended animation (various forms of inactivity, dormancy, etc.) . However, in this state cells cannot do much in terms of synthesis or assembly. We cannot put together an inactive cell and somehow “switch it” on.
    It is possible to combine elements from different cells to make a viable cell. Most notably, it is possible to install a nucleus from one cell in another cell from which the nucleus was removed – that how organisms can be cloned. It is possible to introduce genetic elements (natural or synthesized) to modify cell genome. It is also possible to exchange or add organelles – but this is shuffling of parts that already exist in the cells.

    You can take a prokaryotic cell, remove a chromosome, and install a a new one – either obtained from another organisms, or synthesized. Some attempts are made using this method to find out the minimal genetic requirements for a living cell, but I don’t think they got very far with that.

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  michael17.
    #25968

    Unseen
    Participant

    @unseen, it’s true that we’re not consciously aware of all sensory inputs. According to Michael Tomasello, “we attend to what is relevant to our goals”. If this is true, then conscious attention is on those things that are relevant to our goals. I agree with this: in experience, it’s true. Why would that be? Because conscious awareness and thinking are a space in the brain for doing high-level reasoning and organising of information that is relevant to our goals. I wonder what an animal’s experience of consciousness is like. For us, it’s filled with language and concepts. The human brain is a cooperative brain, and we use the contents of our minds to communicate with others. Hence, we make sense to and communicate to ourselves. The mind talks, the inner ear and eye hear and see the results.

    ‘it’s true that we’re not consciously aware of all sensory inputs. According to Michael Tomasello, “we attend to what is relevant to our goals”.’ And it’s not your conscious mind choosing what to present as experience and what not to present, is it? It’s that pre-conscious “mind.”

    Why would an animal need to be conscious any more than a human would need to be? The same arguments apply to them as well. I’m not saying they’re not conscious, I’m asking “why?”

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  Unseen.
    #25976

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Why would an animal need to be conscious any more than a human would need to be?

    It’s a good question.

    By “conscious” I presume you mean “visible to the mind’s eye and audible to the mind’s ear”.  A squirrel, before it jumps across a gap from one branch to the next, will seemingly weigh up its chances of success and calculate the effort and trajectory required.  So it appears to think about how to do the jump.  The alternative – claiming that the squirrel may not be conscious – requires that it just launches itself blindly into the air with no prior calculation.  A dumb move, evolutionarily speaking.

    So, we can see how thinking is useful to the squirrel.  Taking humans as an example of animals, why should these things be “visible to the mind’s eye and audible to the mind’s ear”?  Because consciousness, both in its active and passive aspects, is a high-level control centre.  The mind’s ear and eye need to receive information from the rest of the brain in order to pack it all into one place where decisions can be made / ratified / considered.

    #25979

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    consciousness

    Think of it like a workshop full of tools.  In these circumstances, you need a light on.

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