Consciousness came before life

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Consciousness came before life

Stuart Hameroff | Professor of Astrobiology, Psychology and Anesthesiology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Anirban Bandyopadhyay | Principal Research Scientist at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Tsukuba, Japan.

Dante Lauretta | Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry, and Director of the Arizona Astrobiology Center, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. He led NASA’s OSIRIS REx mission to Asteroid Bennu.

Quote:Most scientists believe that consciousness came after life, as a product of evolution. But observations of extraterrestrial organic material, along with Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s quantum theory of consciousness, provide reason to believe that consciousness came before life. In fact, argue Hameroff and his collaborators, consciousness may have been what made evolution and life possible in the first place.

Quote:...Microtubules are biologic time crystals that enable living systems to operate coherently over many orders of spatiotemporal scale. Microtubule vibrations emanate within each tubulin from aromatic organic molecules (rings that are made up of carbon atoms arranged in a closed loop with clouds of delocalized ‘pi resonance’ electrons). Simpler versions of these coherent oscillations, their resonance across frequencies, and time crystal behavior in early molecular systems may be considered putative “signs of life.”

What is consciousness? Many scientists view it as an emergent property of complex biological computation among simple brain neurons. But if so, how do we account for eons of purposeful behavior by earlier, simpler creatures, long before brains or genes? Animal behavior is driven by “reward,” which is made up of pleasurable feelings. Could feelings have been motivation for life right from its start?

We don’t yet know what consciousness is, nor what role it plays in the universe, so the possibility that conscious feelings existed before life cannot be excluded. Of course, we cannot test for signs of consciousness, which is private and unobservable. But anesthesia is selective, blocking consciousness while affecting very little else. We can therefore test molecular systems for what goes away under anesthesia. Furthermore, we have a plausible scientific story about what consciousness might be, which implies that conscious feelings did exist before life. Let’s look at that story now...
'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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Consciousness came before life?
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. ..."
Genesis chapter 1 verse 1.

I don't particularly refer to the Bible as a scientific reference book, but the idea is commonplace enough. Perhaps the assertion, "Most scientists believe that consciousness came after life..." is not a result of any particular logic, but simply a deliberate 180 degree turn from scripture. A bit like an argumentative teenager, rejecting what adults tell them, irrespective of evidence for or against.
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(2024-05-13, 10:52 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Consciousness came before life

Stuart Hameroff | Professor of Astrobiology, Psychology and Anesthesiology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Anirban Bandyopadhyay | Principal Research Scientist at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Tsukuba, Japan.

Dante Lauretta | Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry, and Director of the Arizona Astrobiology Center, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. He led NASA’s OSIRIS REx mission to Asteroid Bennu.

A few comments.

Quote:For Penrose (and Hameroff), “quantum state reductions” (or collapses) occur spontaneously and ubiquitously in the random microenvironment due to an objective threshold, (objective reduction, OR). Moreover, OR events in the random microenvironment are predicted to be, or cause, “proto-conscious” moments, available to then be orchestrated and optimized in biological systems.
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Penrose reverses von Neumann and Wigner’s interpretation. For Penrose, it’s not that consciousness causes the collapse of the wavefunction, but that the collapse of the wavefunction causes (or, perhaps, is) consciousness. This suggests the beginnings of an explanation of consciousness....
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Comment: This seems to be the key claim, and unfortunately this is akin to magic, since whatever this "proto-consciousness" ultimately is is still not understood and defined, and it is claimed to just comes into being, "poof", under certain conditions. The potential for life was simply built-in to the nature of reality from the start by whatever created it from nothing. The theory doesn't address the primary mystery which is, what really is consciousness? It also seems to run squarely into the well-known "Hard Problem" of consciousness formulated by Chalmers. This points out that consciousness and all its properties like the qualia of perception, subjective awareness, thought, etc. are totally immaterial and in an existentially different kind of reality than the physical nuts and bolts of our physical world, making the search for a physicalist or materialist explanation of consciousness totally futile. That's the problem.

Quote:.....what collapses the wavefunction, if not consciousness?
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Penrose argues that conscious minds are not like complex formal systems, since they don’t have any Gödel sentences. Put differently, consciousness involves a non-computable process – a process which cannot be classically computed. In contrast, familiar, classical reality is algorithmic and “computable.” Penrose therefore concludes that the non-computable process and its attendant conscious “feelings” or “qualia” must come from outside classical physics, namely from quantum physics with its own set of laws.

Although the quantum processes are non-computable and non-algorithmic, their selections are not random, according to Penrose. Rather, they are influenced by “Platonic values” intrinsic to spacetime geometry. Penrose proposed that each OR event marked a moment of phenomenal awareness – a fundamental unit of conscious experience. His picture thus provides the beginnings of explanations of quantum superposition, wavefunction collapse, and consciousness itself.
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In the primordial soup, quantum-coupled, entangled aromatic rings in superposition within micelles could have reached threshold for Penrose OR at times t=ħ/EG, resulting in sequences of random, disconnected proto-conscious moments. Some of these would exhibit positive reinforcement, a primitive form of pleasure. Thus, this mechanism could have served as a feedback fitness function for aromatic rings on amphipathic molecules to arrange within micelles for OR events which increase pleasure and avoid displeasure. Thus, the origin of life may have been prompted and driven by conscious feelings right from the start. Evolution may have worked to optimize, organize, and prioritize more advanced conscious experience involving memory, belief, forecasting, intention and iteration, driven by primitive, and then more advanced forms of pleasure-seeking. Life became the vehicle for consciousness.
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Comment: Thus the theory seems to genuinely have some explanatory value in that given some very major and questionable assumptions it looks to have the capability of explaining the evident non-computability or non-algorithmic nature of consciousness, and the apparently actual spontaneous "evolutionary" origin of life on Earth, once the major miraculous quantum-mechanical magic jump from non-life to life is made. Unfortunately this latter "quantum jump" is a deus ex machina magical rabbit pulled out of a hat that doesn't answer the key philosophical or metaphysical questions.
(This post was last modified: 2024-05-19, 04:38 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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(2024-05-19, 04:20 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: Comment: This seems to be the key claim, and unfortunately this is akin to magic, since whatever this "proto-consciousness" ultimately is is still not understood and defined, and it is claimed to just comes into being, "poof", under certain conditions. The potential for life was simply built-in to the nature of reality from the start by whatever created it from nothing. The theory doesn't address the primary mystery which is, what really is consciousness? It also seems to run squarely into the well-known "Hard Problem" of consciousness formulated by Chalmers. This points out that consciousness and all its properties like the qualia of perception, subjective awareness, thought, etc. are totally immaterial and in an existentially different kind of reality than the physical nuts and bolts of our physical world, making the search for a physicalist or materialist explanation of consciousness totally futile. That's the problem.

The Hard Problem doesn't say any of the bold? It allows it as a possibility but it's not the only option.

Beyond that I didn't take the essay as presenting a "physicalist or materialist" solution.

Quote:Comment: Thus the theory seems to genuinely have some explanatory value in that given some very major and questionable assumptions it looks to have the capability of explaining the evident non-computability or non-algorithmic nature of consciousness, and the apparently actual spontaneous "evolutionary" origin of life on Earth, once the major miraculous quantum-mechanical magic jump from non-life to life is made. Unfortunately this latter "quantum jump" is a deus ex machina magical rabbit pulled out of a hat that doesn't answer the key philosophical or metaphysical questions.

It actually wasn't a "deus ex machina" pulled out of a hat, but rather Penrose looking for a place for non-computable effects and Hammeroff seeing that something below the level of neurons was needed to explain cognition.

If I was going to give a critique of the theory it would be that the idea of qualia popping up randomly and then combining into larger more organized structures seems off if that is the beginning of the story. It's difficult to see why the correlation between quales and Objective Collapse of a quantum wavefunction would be necessary, and also difficult to see how multiple collapses can lead to organized quales becoming conscious entities.

All that said, while Hammeroff's conjecture seems flawed, I do think there is something to the nature of animal consciousness and microtubules...admittedly just a hunch...
'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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(2024-05-19, 06:41 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The Hard Problem doesn't say any of the bold? It allows it as a possibility but it's not the only option.

Beyond that I didn't take the essay as presenting a "physicalist or materialist" solution.

..................................................

Another way of capsulizing the Hard Problem is that no law of physics, nothing founded on the laws of physics, nothing reducible to the laws of physics governing the physical world, can describe qualia. There is no way you can objectively capture subjective experiential qualities, in order to compare them and see if they are the same or not. They are simply not open to objective science in the way that their neural correlates and information content are. That is what is hard about the hard problem.

What option are you referring to that is another possibility that makes this anything but extremely hard (or unsolvable)?
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(2024-05-19, 09:19 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: Another way of capsulizing the Hard Problem is that no law of physics, nothing founded on the laws of physics, nothing reducible to the laws of physics governing the physical world, can describe qualia. There is no way you can objectively capture subjective experiential qualities, in order to compare them and see if they are the same or not. They are simply not open to objective science in the way that their neural correlates and information content are. That is what is hard about the hard problem.

So the world is more than what these supposed laws of physics can describe seems to be takeaway. This is a position even some dualists hold, given the disagreement on where the immaterial aspect of consciousness points toward immortality of the soul. Feser, to give a concrete example, will tell you qualia are part of this world.

Quote:What option are you referring to that is another possibility that makes this anything but extremely hard (or unsolvable)?

Idealism, Neutral Monism, Panpsychism come to mind as possibilities.

In fact the article seems to suggest a kind of panpsychism. 

To be clear I do think Hammeroff is ultimately wrong because I don't think these qualia popping up for every objective collapse makes that much sense...is it the particle that feels the qualia? Or is the superpositional collapse the experiencer, or is that merely the correlate?

But I don't think he's wrong simply because of the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
'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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(2024-05-19, 09:38 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: So the world is more than what these supposed laws of physics can describe seems to be takeaway. This is a position even some dualists hold, given the disagreement on where the immaterial aspect of consciousness points toward immortality of the soul. Feser, to give a concrete example, will tell you qualia are part of this world.


Idealism, Neutral Monism, Panpsychism come to mind as possibilities.

In fact the article seems to suggest a kind of panpsychism. 

To be clear I do think Hammeroff is ultimately wrong because I don't think these qualia popping up for every objective collapse makes that much sense...is it the particle that feels the qualia? Or is the superpositional collapse the experiencer, or is that merely the correlate?

But I don't think he's wrong simply because of the Hard Problem of Consciousness.

But my version of the statement of the Hard Problem was "No law of physics, nothing founded on the laws of physics, nothing reducible to the laws of physics, can describe qualia". Whether Idealism etc. are true or not does not affect the validity of this statement of the Hard Problem. It's still an unsolvable problem at the strictly physical level. And even if Idealism or Neutral Monism or Panpsychism is true, that ultimately matter is really in some esoteric sense Mind doesn't explain why a quale is inexplicable, since whatever this ultimate essence of mind is per Idealism etc., it is not your or my personal mind experiencing subjective awareness.
Quote:nbtruthman
But my version of the statement of the Hard Problem was "No law of physics, nothing founded on the laws of physics, nothing reducible to the laws of physics, can describe qualia". Whether Idealism etc. are true or not does not affect the validity of this statement of the Hard Problem. It's still an unsolvable problem at the strictly physical level. And even if Idealism or Neutral Monism or Panpsychism is true, that ultimately matter is really in some esoteric sense Mind doesn't explain why a quale is inexplicable, since whatever this ultimate essence of mind is per Idealism etc., it is not your or my personal mind experiencing subjective awareness.

If by "physical" one just means describable in terms of physics as a maths based science...then yes qualia are not "physical".  Galen Strawson, for example, is a physicalist who thinks "panpsychism" is just the acceptance that aspects of the physical world are beyond physics to pin down via mathematical modeling.

And if we're talking about whether there need to be multiple realities, among which are the destination of souls, then qualia are not a definitive indicator of that. In fact, as per Feser's Scholastic take, qualia can be of this world but other aspects of mind are what indicates the mind survives death. 

Progressive dematerialization

Feser

 
Quote:In the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition, it is the intellect, rather than sentience, that marks the divide between the corporeal and the incorporeal.  Hence A-T arguments against materialist theories of the mind tend to focus on conceptual thought rather than qualia (i.e. the subjective or “first-person” features of a conscious experience, such as the way red looks or the way pain feels) as that aspect of the mind which cannot in principle be reduced to brain activity or the like.  Yet Thomistic writers also often speak even of perceptual experience (and not just of abstract thought) as involving an immaterial element.  And they need not deny that qualia-oriented arguments like the “zombie argument,” Frank Jackson’s “knowledge argument,” Thomas Nagel’s “bat argument,” etc. draw blood against materialism.  So what exactly is going on here?

Here as in other areas of philosophy, misunderstanding arises because contemporary readers are usually unaware that classical (Aristotelian/Neo-Platonic/Scholastic) philosophers and modern (post-Cartesian) philosophers carve up the conceptual territory in radically different ways, and thus often don’t use key terms in the same sense.  In this case, terms like “matter” and “material” have a very different force when writers like Aristotle and Aquinas use them than they have when Descartes, Hobbes, or your average contemporary academic philosopher uses them.  There are at least three ways in which this is true...
'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: 2024-05-19, 10:50 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
(2024-05-19, 10:50 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: If by "physical" one just means describable in terms of physics as a maths based science...then yes qualia are not "physical".  Galen Strawson, for example, is a physicalist who thinks "panpsychism" is just the acceptance that aspects of the physical world are beyond physics to pin down via mathematical modeling.

And if we're talking about whether there need to be multiple realities, among which are the destination of souls, then qualia are not a definitive indicator of that. In fact, as per Feser's Scholastic take, qualia can be of this world but other aspects of mind are what indicates the mind survives death

Progressive dematerialization

Feser
 

I disagree. I don't see how qualia and subjective perception could possibly be of this world, this physical reality. So they must be of a non-physical reality. Other aspects of mind such as thought and understanding are very similar to qualia in that they are completely immaterial and evidently not of this physical reality, which justifies their inclusion with qualia in the formulation of the Hard Problem. So we have two groups of purely mental phenomena or properties of consciousness that are evidently not of our physical reality. Collectively all these aspects or properties of consciousness constitute what appears to be a conscious nonphysical entity corresponding to what is considered to be the nonphysical spirit of a physical human being. Which implies that this nonphysical spirit must inhabit a spiritual realm of reality, that is, an afterlife.
(2024-05-19, 10:45 AM)Typoz Wrote: Consciousness came before life?
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. ..."
Genesis chapter 1 verse 1.

I don't particularly refer to the Bible as a scientific reference book, but the idea is commonplace enough. Perhaps the assertion, "Most scientists believe that consciousness came after life..." is not a result of any particular logic, but simply a deliberate 180 degree turn from scripture. A bit like an argumentative teenager, rejecting what adults tell them, irrespective of evidence for or against.
I understand the response and its mainstream sense, but........

How does God not bring mind to the "table" in creating His working universe.  I think the assertion that mind/consciousness came before biological life reinforces the Creation narrative.  This article kinda freaked me out.  Just a few days ago I wrote this in a reply @David001.

Quote: I most strongly agree that disincarnate mind (information processing) was prior to biological life and the process could have been working on code for a few billion years, prior to it organizing material chemistry to support it. -- Trashing NS post #25
My worldview holds that mind evolved prior to implementing its informational abilities.  Searching all probable outcomes life/mind can organize the chemistry that proves useful for physical life.  This is an example of the potential for a Divine Mind to create a processing systems - not magically - whereby living things can evolve their own minds from the raw stuff of the created environments.
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