Friday, September 22, 2017

675: From Cell to Self...

In the discussion after the previous lecture Gemma brought an article to our attention about looking into our brain made easier.
Can we see consciousness? The picture behind me shows you in what way we can. We can register brain activity in different stages of intensity.
If we use the common sense definition of the term, which I formulated in a previous lecture,
"consciousness" refers to those states of sentience and awareness that typically begin when we awake from a dreamless sleep 
and continue until we go to sleep again, or fall into a coma or die or otherwise become "unconscious." (J. Searle)
the answer is no. We have to look at the behaviour and responses of the person involved to say “she is conscious”.
Looking into our brain has become easier in the sense that we now have equipment, which can show what neurons and dendrites are connected.
Yet, I don’t believe that this approach ever will explain, how consciousness comes into being. It only shows what parts  of the brain are related to a state of consciousness.
We have taken our stand, that consciousness is a biological phenomenon, just like digestion or photosynthesis.
We have to look in a completely different direction. This came to my attention when I reada new book by the biochemist Nick Lane: “The Vital Question” (2015, 2016)
The title of the Introduction is: “Why is life the way it is ?” And this is not a philosophical question for him but a biological one.
This is how the introduction begins:
There is a black hole at the heart of biology. Bluntly put, we do not know why life is the way it is.
 All complex life on earth shares a common ancestor, a cell that arose from simple bacterial progenitors on just one occasion in 4 billion years.
Was this a freak accident, or did other 'experiments' in the evolution of complexity fail? We don't know. 
We do know that this common ancestor was already a very complex cell. It had more or less the same sophistication as one of your cells, 
and it passed this great complexity on not just to you and me but to all its descendants, from trees to bees. 
I challenge you to look at one of your own cells down a microscope and distinguish it from the cells of a mushroom. 
They are practically identical. I don't live much like a mushroom, so why are my cells so similar?” end quote-
Reading something like this, I find pretty exciting. It all begins with the cell and in that cell with the mitochondria. They are the tiny engines that produce energy.
The brain cell is specialised, because it not only produces energy to live, but can also send electronic messages along the nerve paths.
I once felt this myself. When one day my dentist applied  anesthesia, I felt an tiny electric shock. I guess  his needle had touched my nerve itself.
All this confirms for my John Searle’s conclusion, that consciousness is a biological process and that this process of energy in Homo Sapiens leads to consciousness and self-awareness.
Thank you for your attention…^_^

The Discussion

[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman.
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:27] herman Bergson: I am lagging all the time....
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why only in homo sapiens and not in other species?
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): if cells are the same
[13:27] herman Bergson: we just don’t know
[13:27] Ciska Riverstone: yes - it needs something in addition to make a cell mutate
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: if the cell itself can think
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: any life form might have a consciousness in that biological sense
[13:28] Ciska Riverstone: that starts with bacteria
[13:28] herman Bergson: any is maybe to much but yes....many
[13:29] CB Axel: I doubt that consciousness and self-awareness starts in the cell. I think it's how the cells get arranged to form a brain that does it.
[13:29] herman Bergson: and we do not know where in the chain consciousness begins to emerge
[13:29] Ciska Riverstone: so your theses is anything has a certain consciousness and this is the consciousness we discuss?
[13:29] herman Bergson: It starts in the interaction of all cells of the brain
[13:30] herman Bergson: I don’t mean to say that an individual cell has consciousness
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: I too think that there must be something to start this process  cb
[13:30] Ciska Riverstone: ok
[13:30] CB Axel: But even trees seem to sense danger and can even communicate the presence of danger to other trees.
[13:30] CB Axel: Is that consciousness?
[13:30] herman Bergson: well consciousness implies awareness of pain and fear for instance.....
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes true CB
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: ok - that kind of consciousness is there for animals then too for example
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed, can plants feel and be aware in some way?
[13:31] CB Axel: They seem to be able to.
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes CB, but that is not necessarily a conscious act of a tree
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: so where do we draw the line?
[13:32] CB Axel: True, Herman.
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: for me a plant is aware
[13:32] Ciska Riverstone: (so far)
[13:33] herman Bergson: But many animals can be regarded as conscious beings
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah

[Discussion interrupted due to computer failure…]

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