November 4, 2011

snippets xi-xii

...the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run. Let’s say that a particular cerebral nucleus was found, existing only in conscious creatures. Would that solve it? Or maybe a specific molecule, synthesized only in the heat of subjective mental functioning, increasing in quantity in proportion as sensations are increasingly vivid, disappearing with unconsciousness, and present in diminished quantity from human to hippo to herring to hemlock tree.

- David Barash, "The Hardest Problem in Science?"

I'm OK with the general premise that we really don't know where to begin the search for the locus of consciousness, but given that, should we not first set aside the assumption that a hemlock tree is less conscious than a human or a hippo?

My suspicion is that the key to consciousness lies with the bacteria that compose roughly 90 percent of our "human" bodies. Bacteria were after all the sole occupants and shapers of our planet for four BILLION years. We eukaryota are infants compared to those guys.

Or maybe consciousness starts even earlier: Astronomers discover complex organic matter in the universe. All the stars in all the galaxies of the universe are busily churning out the building blocks of life. The sustaining energy for all life begins with the sun; the loop closes.

And then, just to really square the circle, a comet brings us water from way out along the edge of the solar system. (Read the article, then go read Genesis 1:6-7 again.) I mean, it's miraculous that all the pieces of the puzzle came together in this time and place, but the fact that the pieces fit together at all suggests that the universe, or something therein, knows what it's doing. To know is to be. Call it what you will.

(These rambling thoughts lead me back to one of my favorite Bible verses, Genesis 2:7: "And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.")

1 comment:

  1. Amen.

    And trees are made of air
    and horses survive on hay.

    Whew--miracles abound!