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Question for Biologists about Consciousness

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posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 12:45 PM
I am wondering about the role dna and brains matter play in regards to consciousness.

If a wasp is in the middle of its reproduction cycle, and it is recieving compulsions from her dna to create a den, capture catterpillar, inspect den, take in catterpillar. I know the wasp can get caught in a continual loop if you move her catterpillar while she inspects the den. So It seems to me like the wasp is experiencing consciousness like a human would if the human was A: had extremely limited/no memory storage, and B: performing a repetitive task without thinking verbal thoughts.

So when we take away the dynamic thought aspects of human consciousness, and its memory storage functions, would consciousness still exist? It seems to me like it would, the wasp isn't a computer exactly.

So if you can take away those aspects and still retain consciousness, would that mean that a brain is not necessarily required to experience consciousness? like as long as an organism can sense something, it can be conscious?

Take Myxotricha paradoxa for example. This protozoan has cilias that are actually spirochetes attached to an organelle embedded in the myxotricha's membrane. This organelle is a bacteria itself. It is a combination of microorganisms that have not yet formed a true symbosis, they have just sensed the benefit of teaming up.

Do they communicate with eachother somehow? Our dna is what is responsible for our language, are all organisms equiped with communication ready dna?

Sorry if these questions are sophomoric, biology science books are difficult to navigate for me, but this science is absolutely essential to my understanding of the world organism. So thanks in advance to anyone who reads and ponders this for us.

posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 01:11 PM
Good question. I'm not a biologist but would like to comment on something.

I actually make a distinction between awareness and consciousness. Where awareness is the present-moment experiencing/feeling self - and consciousness is our past-future thinking/understanding self. Humans are more on the consciousness side of things, often in their heads and not really feeling the present moment. Animal life on earth in general appears to be less conscious: Meaning they think less, but perhaps as a result they feel more and are more aware of the present-moment... though with little ability to comprehend it.

posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 01:25 PM
reply to post by circlemaker

So if there is a difference between sensual awareness and full blown consciousness, where does a sever alzheimer patient fall into the picture? Can you have consciousness, then become damaged to the point where you only have awareness? this seems to me like it would represent degrees of something like

No braincomplete human brain

posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 03:26 PM
I have never been a professional biologist, but I did have many years of training in that area before going a differant route in my life.

When I was last fully active in studying biology, there was not a full understanding of what conciousness and self-awareness are. Humans can be comotose and still react to external stimuli (thus being alive). Conciousness would appear to be having a nervous center that is capable of reasoning out a problem. Awareness is tricky because it involves much more abstract notions.

I personally feel that awareness and "mind" is an artifact of the entire nervous system working together.. a ghost in the machine as such. Much like how electricity is not the movement of electrons down a copper wire, but rather the movement of energy in a waveform across those electrons; our nervous system creates a dynamic field that can interact without environment beyond the sumple chemical sensory mechanisms. I believe this is what creates the artifact of awareness.

Given that, I believe anything with a sufficiently complex nervous apparatus can be both concious and aware.

posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 04:28 PM
reply to post by rogerstigers

Ok so if there is a cns and memory and brain organ then you have more than awareness, you are capable of self awareness or consciousness. The difference between the wasp and the human.

What about a computer? If a computer can have sensors on it, it can be aware, but only if it is programmed to recieve from the sensors, but this is too basic, probably not worthy of being called awareness because it needs more programming to determine what to do with the input from the senses.

So a single cell is like a computer in a fashion. No brain organ, but it has sensory mechanisms. It also has software, programmed into it's dna, that tells it what to do about the input it senses. There is no ghost in the machine because there is no brain. This analogy seems slightly wrong to me though. Maybe it is the software difference. The cells software allows them to team up with other cells in order to stablilize and sustain themselves and evolve. Computers are more like levers and switches, and even the best software designed in the image our minds is incapable of such radical self improvement. Any software designed to self improve would simply be an attempted allegory of dna.

Does true awareness come from simply being part of evolution, having dna inside us that whispers to us the secrets to improvement? Whispers it not just to us, but to every cell in our body? Meaning every cell, every mitochondria, everything that is considered organ or organelle, have awareness - a sort of ghostless consciousness, and when you add them up and develop a sophisticated communications hub for them (cns/brain) only then does the ghost begin its hauntings?

This train of thought is leading me down unfamiliar rails. Is consciousness a combination of awarenesses, that when these awarenesses can seemlessly integrate it creates a giant superawareness, an internet of tiny whispers of evolution, that come together to trumpet a whole voice, a manifested avatar of evolution, a consciousness?

posted on Nov, 2 2011 @ 09:32 PM
reply to post by MemeticHarvest

First, we have to define consciousness.

I carry on "conversations" with many animals. Granted - it's rather basic, and there are some barriers - but it doesn't take much more than giving an animal the time of day and you will begin seeing eerily human traits about their expressions and behavior.

Dogs, cats, and foxes kept as pets are well known for their tendency to fake injury to get attention - or even to get another of the owner's pets in trouble ("crying to Mommy/Daddy"). Many birds demonstrate problem-solving ability (such as crows dropping pebbles into a container of water).

What does it mean to be "conscious?"

What does it mean to be "sentient?"

Awareness is a little more straight-forward - but not by much. The line between environmental awareness and self-awareness is rather blurry. A strong environmental awareness coupled with a sense of self-awareness should naturally lead to an intrinsic understanding that one's self is capable of interacting with its environment and influencing various factors.

A human can pick up an unfamiliar device and, often, reverse-engineer its function (or improvise a new one. . .) based off of its design and how they understand it to interact with them and the environment. Yet, the dog doesn't understand there really isn't another dog in the television (well, some dogs don't gaheet it, at least).

So... defining what is what can really become a challenge... especially when factoring in our neurology.

A common structure has a lot to do with the way we think and perceive the world. Many of our expressions are directly linked to the physical forms of our bodies (as are our ways of describing/visualizing events and concepts). It has become increasingly popular in neurology to consider the physical structure of any intelligence to be one of the most significant factors regarding the ability for that intelligence to communicate and understand the world around it.

But then... what makes, and you... you? Sure - upbringing, genetics, all of those have a hand in the making... but, what actually puts all of what you see and hear into... well - what you see and hear? I am able to tell when my thoughts are being disrupted by fatigue or temporary bouts of rage/insanity - but where does my mind get the reference for that self-judgment?

The reality is that we don't have all the answers. We have ideas and theories... but it's another one of those areas where science gives way to philosophy.

posted on Nov, 3 2011 @ 09:41 AM

Originally posted by MemeticHarvest
reply to post by rogerstigers

This train of thought is leading me down unfamiliar rails. Is consciousness a combination of awarenesses, that when these awarenesses can seemlessly integrate it creates a giant superawareness, an internet of tiny whispers of evolution, that come together to trumpet a whole voice, a manifested avatar of evolution, a consciousness?

That's why this subject is so much fun to explore.. all uncharted (or relatively uncharted) territory.

My current understanding implies only a cognative differance between awareness and "self-awareness". Basically, is the CNS capable of abstracting the concept of "self"? I do not necessarilly believe that a brain is needed. It is theoretically possible do have a decentralized processing system, although that may be slower, but does allow for some level of redundancy in case of injury, etc.

The concept of "soul" begins to come into play when evaluating the mind. Given that I feel the mind is a "waveform" artifact and is the result of processes, but not made of the processes themselves, I believe it can exist as a residual energy to some degree after the processes have stopped, much like a tsunami exists long after an earthquake has stopped. However, if a soul exists (I personally believe it does), it would be a sort of symbiotic mechanism that interacts with the mind, much like a computer user. When the computer goes off, the soul would still exist, but would need to find a new computer and would present differantly because each computer is unique... but that delves more into philosophy than science.

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