posted on Apr, 4 2016 @ 02:26 AM
In us, at all times, the ticking clock picks out a new version of us. In we come and out we go, thinking, at a level, but which level? Different minds
think at different decibels. Some minds have 'touched' something that seems to keep them ticking to a wholesome tune. The world feels different, and
so a mind can maintain different types of thought and behavior. What is this phenomena?
Like all of matter, its a dynamical force. The scientist Terrence Deacon has thought deeply about how mind is "made" (or given the vehicle
for expression) and he considers first thermodynamics as being a fundamental variable that acts upon the organization of any macroscopic physical
process. He then asks us to imagine a boulder in a river, and to consider how the normal flow of the water in the river is disrupted by the presence
of the boulder, effectively creating two streams that then "crash" into each other on the other side. In reality, this 'crashing' motion is less
efficient in dealing with thermodynamic dissonance than the formation of a whirlpool, which spreads out the energy equally into a stable geometric
structure. Deacon calls this stable state a "morphodynamic" process, which exists by virtue of the energy diffusion occurring at quantum and
molecular levels. This tendency to diffuse energy into particular forms - an example he gives being the hexagonal cells which form in dry cracked
land, permafrost, or in hardened lava - is a fundamental physical constraint on energy diffusion. The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that all things
move from a state of order to disorder, or, in informational lingo, increases in shannon entropy. Whirlpools form as a consequence of this law, which
is quite strange indeed. A physically differentiated phenomena arises because the universe is trying to increase the efficiency of loss, or in Deacons
term, minimize the amount of "work" to be performed. What is there, as it were, is an absence; a bunch of constraints forcing physical molecules
into particular 'efficient' arrangements.
What is adaptation but the conservation of that which increases advantage? Deacon talks about orthograde and contragrade processes, which in the
example above would be the normal flow of the river (orthograde), and then the crash (contragrade) and then the formation of a whirlpool (orthograde).
The flow of the river moves from one stable state to an unstable state to a stable state. But the stable state is a unique state,
differentiating itself from the world around it. The whirlpool exists by virtue of the power and flow of the river; yet it is entirely dynamical,
entirely 'alive', as it were, with physical motion.
We are essentially this. This is Deacons tremendous insight, which seems to be, I think, profoundly complex, yes, but enormously plausible as an
explanation for how living things emerge.
But to get life, and mind, you need telos. You need a goal. Cells live because they manage to make use of the molecular energy around them to
regenerate its macroscopic form. None of this happens without a cost, without an energetic arrangement with the outside. But the cell, and later the
animal, and then the human being, is intrinsically linked with a telos. Without purpose, there is no life. Without a containment - a body - there is
no way to differentiate self from other. Matter forms, and somehow contains ingredients, that lead to thermodynamically logical macro-structures.
Eventually, you get us. A morphodynamic being that has evolved such molecular complexity to become a fully teleologically sentient being. This is an
awesome way of seeing things, yet I feel there is a fundamental "lack". Thermodynamics isn't everything, and Deacon is fairly sketchy on the
details of how morphodynamics becomes teleodynamics (although he assures us that it could happen in what he calls an "autogen" - a primitive
molecular structure). The tendency to cohere, and then to perpetuate your coherence, seems just too good to be true. The differentiation that
has accumulated and becomes more and more 'spiritual' in nature cannot possibly be simply physical. I think, perhaps, that we should consult eastern
wisdom and consider the dualistic nature of the reality we function within.
How do you get a life? How do you get mind? Lets say awareness is always there, passive. The universe explodes, planets form, solar systems stabiize,
and special planets are "naturally selected" by some universal selection. On these planets, life forms, in just the thermodynamic ways described
above. Cells form, then for some interesting reason, at one point, they combine, one swallowing up the other (eukaryote), and in just a necessary
combination, giving rise to a necessary phenomena. Aeons pass as these processes perpetuate themselves, and these processes, now animals, are
obviously alive and invested with functional purpose. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, the great Jesuit paleontologist, believed that life was
amazing because it was animated by purpose. It existed because it wanted to exist. He also described the neatness in which natural
selection finds routes for life to progress, to find niches, and in some lines, to move forward, adapt, and discover pathways that weren't available
to organisms before. Life at these levels - primates - entails not just energy, but something else. If thermodynamics is a centrifugal force
(diffusing energy into a statistical 'smoothing out'), then perhaps, quite paradoxically, life coheres, reproduces, differentiates, and then
re-adheres, because it, as the Eyptian myth of Osiris intuited long ago, has some sort of purpose that achieves itself at whatever "dead end" it
finds, or stabilizes at, for however long.
Apes became hominids because our fear was dialed down. The universe had provided the ecological conditions for one (or even more) paths to land upon a
particular level of consciousness. Human beings evolved from an ape-like creature a million or so years ago. 500,000 years ago, hominids like Homo
Heidelbergenesis were making fire, and no doubt experiencing the awe of what their own mind had just accomplished: to create something that required a
complex representation of causal relations. Fire is the symbol for that, and the experience, no doubt, fed the neurons within them with the
centripetal force of love.
Electricity arises, the self forms. Recognizing selves is how you grow a brain. One center of subjectivity responding positively to the center of
another subjectivity, and a spark is released. All creatures which have made the transition into this form (primates, dogs, elephants, whales,
dolphins) are not subject to its dynamics, needing to renew their orthograde homeostasis to keep themselves alive. The baboon, following a dispute,
will always return to the troop; to be away too long is to depressing. The brain motivates the baboon to go back and make the necessary oblations.
As a social mammal,we are deep into this dynamic, which means we are deeply desirous of the positive feedback of the other. Humans jumped passed apes
because our evolutionary line was graced by the ecological conditions to foster a relaxation of the brains fear system, and the opportunities provided
by an open (and relatively safe) environment to develop within the creation of this new "quiet space". In this space, which was earlier managed by
rough-house play, termite picking, or sex,...