Conscious storms and the Origin of Life

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Conscious storms and the Origin of Life

Massimiliano Sorrentino & Daniela Panighetti

Quote:This surprisingly coherent and empirically well-grounded essay argues that, although governed by blind, purposeless laws of nature, the Earth’s atmosphere—just like biological brains—may be associated with a subjective first-person perspective, and may have therefore purposefully created life on Earth. The essay coherently brings together a compatibilist approach to free will, an idealist metaphysics and speculations about abiogenesis.

Quote:...As we have already argued, since we have no idea of why there is conscious experience corresponding to the activity of a particular physical system (biological brains), we have no way of refuting the hypothesis that there was conscious experience associated with the electromagnetic activity of the primordial atmospheric system. And since we have no idea of what is so special about a biological brain, we are forced to formulate the following conjecture: if a system has similar physical or structural characteristics to those of a biological brain, then it is plausible that its activity is associated with conscious experience. Such a conjecture is based on the observation that my brain and your brain are different but quite similar in many ways, and we are both conscious.

So let’s see what characteristics are common to a biological brain and the Earth’s atmosphere, based on a long tradition of comparative studies between the two, aimed at determining possible interactions between environmental electromagnetism and brain activity...

I feel like we talked about something like on Skeptiko forums long ago, though not necessarily as directly related to the creation of life?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Mind may be older than we think

Massimiliano Sorrentino & Daniela Panighetti

Quote:It could certainly be argued that forms of animal life may have appeared far earlier on other planets. However, investigating this possibility is beyond the scope of the current paper. Rather, we will continue to pursue the line of research that we began to illustrate in the essay entitled ‘Conscious storms and the origin of life,’ revisiting it here from a different perspective. In the latter essay, we showed that the mind-matter problem should be given more serious consideration, since it can potentially question the certainties we have about the nature of living organisms. In fact, we argued that, although governed by blind, purposeless laws of nature, the Earth’s atmosphere—just like the biological brain—may be associated with a subjective first-person perspective and may have, therefore, purposely created life on Earth.

The aforementioned essay implicitly opens up the possibility that the mind is older than currently thought, and that it is not necessarily unique to the animal kingdom, or exclusive to living organisms as a whole. We intend to develop this theme here by asking the following question: how do we render more plausible the possibility that there actually was—and perhaps still is—conscious experience related to the activity of the atmospheric system? In our earlier essay, we highlighted the similarities between this system and our brain; here we will follow a different approach.

If we were to consider the possibility that life on Earth is the work of an author—possibly the Earth itself—there would still be something about life that we would need to further comprehend. In other words, our current understanding would be limited to a mere reduction of life to a physico-chemical process, yet its meaning as the creation of an author would remain absolutely obscure, simply because we never entertained the possibility that it could have such a meaning. Resorting to a metaphor, this would be akin to studying a painting, such as the “Narciso” by Caravaggio, by simply attempting to ascertain the chemical composition of the colors and the physical structure of the canvas. Our understanding of the physico-chemical aspects of the object might well be advanced, and we might also be able to identify some recurring patterns in the image, yet the meaning of the work—a depiction of Narcissus looking at his own reflection in a body of water—would escape us entirely.

We therefore propose the following approach: we will attempt to gain an understanding of what life is by acknowledging that it actually could be the product of a conscious author, for whom it is endowed with meaning...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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The Timeless Mind: A Thought Experiment

Massimiliano Sorrentino & Daniela Panighetti


Quote:We wish to underline that the problem does not lie in the fact that, at present, we do not have a plausible theory of consciousness under materialism. Rather, the problem is that it does not appear possible to even imagine how such a theory might be formulated. Even if we had an understanding—down to the minutest physical detail—of the way in which the brain, the atmospheric system and other possibly conscious systems function, we would still be none the wiser as to why a system with certain physical characteristics should be endowed with consciousness. Moreover, we would remain equally ignorant as to why certain brain activation patterns correspond to whatever mental patterns they correspond to. An obstacle of this nature is not found in any other area of science, which should be no surprise: what we are trying to explain here—i.e., subjectivity—was excluded from scientific enquiry in the very delineation of the scientific method itself. In the scientific method, the subjective perception of heat is replaced by the objective height of a column of mercury. Therefore, when tackling the problem of consciousness in a world conceptualized as material and objective, it becomes impossible to recover the subject—i.e., an individual who experiences the sensation of heat. The problem, therefore, is a failure to remember that the subject has been excluded from the ontology for purely epistemological reasons—i.e., so to formulate the scientific method.



Quote:We certainly cannot claim to have explained the relationship between mental contents and brain states; our reason for outlining the foregoing embryonic interpretation of such a relationship was simply to point out that, under idealism, the mind-matter problem is more tractable than under materialism. In other words, while in materialism we are faced with an unintelligible problem—given that consciousness is irreducible to matter—in idealism we are faced with more tractable problems, such as the problem of multiple minds (i.e., given that nothing other than the universal mind exists, why do there appear to be multiple minds?). We believe that, unlike the problems of materialism, this problem could be ascribed to language limitations. More specifically, we suggest that perception is related to the existence of a code that introduces a distinction between what things are (as symbols or signifiers) and what they represent (the ‘signifieds’ or meanings).
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2022-08-01, 08:55 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The Timeless Mind: A Thought Experiment

Massimiliano Sorrentino & Daniela Panighetti

I'm not impressed. The notion that the atmospheric system could be conscious seems preposterous, for more reasons than it's mostly worth going into. I'm only given to pause on this assessment by the unfortunate fact that since neither science nor philosophy has a clue as to what consciousness really is, we can't really say absolutely for sure that any system big and complex enough couldn't be conscious. It just seems exceedingly unlikely, if for no other reason than the fact that the atmospheric system has none of the characteristics or attributes that seem to be associated with consciousness in humans and animals. Such as an enduring vast extremely complex organized neural structure devoted to perception through physical organs of great intricacy, sending sensory data to vast numbers of neuronal logic units carrying out massive amounts of data processing. And there are the other systems of the physical body which enable consciousness through the brain to physically act in the world. Of course, the brain's data processor nature doesn't create the consciousness expressed through it, but the complex structure seems to be necessary for consciousness to express itself in matter. Air mass "systems", clouds, storms, etc. just don't have anything equivalent. 

It seems to me the only useful thing here (at least in the quoted material) is the insight that materialism is ultimately incoherent and useless when it comes to explaining consciousness. At least the authors don't appear to be materialists. I don't agree with them that idealism is the next most plausible system to explain consciousness. The authors probably excluded dualism for the various mostly invalid reasons usually used by materialists. And I think that the multiple minds problem is only the least of the problems idealism has in explaining consciousness - they start with the paranormal data.
(This post was last modified: 2022-08-02, 03:04 AM by nbtruthman. Edited 3 times in total.)
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(2022-08-02, 02:51 AM)nbtruthman Wrote: I'm not impressed. The notion that the atmospheric system could be conscious seems preposterous, for more reasons than it's mostly worth going into. I'm only given to pause on this assessment by the unfortunate fact that since neither science nor philosophy has a clue as to what consciousness really is, we can't really say absolutely for sure that any system big and complex enough couldn't be conscious. It just seems exceedingly unlikely, if for no other reason than the fact that the atmospheric system has none of the characteristics or attributes that seem to be associated with consciousness in humans and animals. Such as an enduring vast extremely complex organized neural structure devoted to perception through physical organs of great intricacy, sending sensory data to vast numbers of neuronal logic units carrying out massive amounts of data processing. And there are the other systems of the physical body which enable consciousness through the brain to physically act in the world. Of course, the brain's data processor nature doesn't create the consciousness expressed through it, but the complex structure seems to be necessary for consciousness to express itself in matter. Air mass "systems", clouds, storms, etc. just don't have anything equivalent. 

It seems to me the only useful thing here (at least in the quoted material) is the insight that materialism is ultimately incoherent and useless when it comes to explaining consciousness. At least the authors don't appear to be materialists. I don't agree with them that idealism is the next most plausible system to explain consciousness. The authors probably excluded dualism for the various mostly invalid reasons usually used by materialists. And I think that the multiple minds problem is only the least of the problems idealism has in explaining consciousness - they start with the paranormal data.

Honestly I can't tell if they are making a mockery of Materialists or being serious. It seems like they are saying that if you believe humans are conscious only because of arrangements of matter then why not thunderstorms?

I mean in the end they are saying they're Idealists so it seems like they never believed the storm stuff in the first place, they just wanted to show that the same arguments for humans being a collection of conscious atoms in the movements of matter applies to storms?

As for paranormal data, I think this depends on what means by Monism and Dualism. There do seem to be at least two intersecting realities, but I don't think the division is the usual Cartersian idea of mind-stuff and matter-stuff. Also this intersection seems to be messy/diffuse with ectoplasm coming out of mediums' mouths and PK taking effort akin to lifting a weight along with a variety of phenomena that suggests both a continuity between spirit and matter as well as distinction.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2022-08-02, 05:36 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2022-08-02, 02:51 AM)nbtruthman Wrote: It just seems exceedingly unlikely, if for no other reason than the fact that the atmospheric system has none of the characteristics or attributes that seem to be associated with consciousness in humans and animals. Such as an enduring vast extremely complex organized neural structure devoted to perception through physical organs of great intricacy, sending sensory data to vast numbers of neuronal logic units carrying out massive amounts of data processing. And there are the other systems of the physical body which enable consciousness through the brain to physically act in the world. Of course, the brain's data processor nature doesn't create the consciousness expressed through it, but the complex structure seems to be necessary for consciousness to express itself in matter.

I would be very hesitant to accept any of this as being a requirement for consciousness.

Take for example a self-driving car. Without taking any particular real-world example, it will have many of the properties detailed above. That is a wide range of sensors with which to gather data about both the surroundings and the internal properties of the vehicle. All of these sensors will feed their data into a system which carries out massive amounts of data processing.

I don't personally consider a self-driving car to be conscious, nor do I think that such a methodology is moving towards a future possibility of becoming conscious. Because of that, I would take your own description of the properties of humans and animals, and delete from that description those parts which are also the characteristics of the self-driving car. What would remain? I'm not sure, but something very much simplified.

My own personal view is that the human senses, body and brain are to a very large extent a physical necessity in order to exist and survive in a physical environment. Though the brain has become associated with consciousness, it is mostly because it enables the body to be responsive. When the brain is not active, the body is also correspondingly inactive.
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Strngely enough, some of the links to Essentiafoundation - including the very first one - don't work for me (but some others do). I wonder if that is their way of retracting a paper?
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(2022-08-06, 06:26 PM)David001 Wrote: Strngely enough, some of the links to Essentiafoundation - including the very first one - don't work for me (but some others do). I wonder if that is their way of retracting a paper?

It seems like they changed the URL structure overnight*...I assume they'll correct for this soon. 

*for example this sentence in the linked essay The Timeless Mind has the correct new links:

"In our previous two essays (see here and here),"
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2022-08-06, 07:26 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
(2022-08-06, 08:27 AM)Typoz Wrote: I would be very hesitant to accept any of this as being a requirement for consciousness.

Take for example a self-driving car. Without taking any particular real-world example, it will have many of the properties detailed above. That is a wide range of sensors with which to gather data about both the surroundings and the internal properties of the vehicle. All of these sensors will feed their data into a system which carries out massive amounts of data processing.

I don't personally consider a self-driving car to be conscious, nor do I think that such a methodology is moving towards a future possibility of becoming conscious. Because of that, I would take your own description of the properties of humans and animals, and delete from that description those parts which are also the characteristics of the self-driving car. What would remain? I'm not sure, but something very much simplified.

My own personal view is that the human senses, body and brain are to a very large extent a physical necessity in order to exist and survive in a physical environment. Though the brain has become associated with consciousness, it is mostly because it enables the body to be responsive. When the brain is not active, the body is also correspondingly inactive.

I think that with the truly self-driving AI car (a hypothetical machine that probably will never be achieved), the car's various essential subsystems are all necessary but in themselves insufficient, in the car as a whole. Human consciousness and free-will decision-making I think are additional and absolutely essential ingredients that will never be substituted for by AI systems. For the car to safely get to where the human occupant wants to go requires both sets of essential subsystems.

This would be similar to the case with humans and higher animals, where the physical sensory and muscular and other body subsystems are necessary but in themselves fundamentally insufficient. The vital spark is consciousness; this consciousness apparently can't manifest itself in the physical without these necessary but in themselves insufficient subsystems.

Similarly, the atmospheric system organizations of matter and energy don't seem to include anything even remotely like these examples, and therefore it seems exceedingly unlikely that the atmosphere could manifest consciousness much less generate it.

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