This article is an excerpt of one that originally appeared in Salvo 61 (Summer 2022), under the title “Everything is Conscious? Panpsychism goes mainstream.” Panpsychism — the view that all of the universe participates in consciousness, which is most fully developed in humans — has been gaining popularity in science in recent years. Does that sound unbelievable? Is not science committed wholly to materialism and nothing but materialism? Will consciousness not soon be “explained” by an accidental glitch in brain wiring that natural selection retained? Science doesn’t seem nearly as committed to that view just now. A 2018 article at Quartz by Olivia Goldhill was titled “The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility.” Read More ›
University of Chicago biochemist James Shapiro’s just-published paper concludes that bacteria, based on their behavior, are cognitive, which means that they are aware in some sense, perhaps some would say, intelligent. What about viruses? Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio says, in an excerpt from his recent book, Feeling & Knowing, that we can also credit some sort of intelligence to viruses: Viruses cannot reproduce on their own, but they can invade living organisms, hijack their life systems, and multiply. In brief, they are not living but can become parasitic of the living and make a “pseudo” living while, in most instances, destroying the life that allows them to continue their ambiguous existence and promoting the manufacture and dissemination of “their” nucleic acids. Read More ›
Prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, considered “a leader in understanding the biological origin of consciousness,” wrote in The Scientist yesterday that “The idea that minds and consciousness might be generated by the nervous system alone is false. In his view, the whole body is involved in consciousness: Attempts to understand consciousness exclusively in terms of neural activity have failed and are, in good part, responsible for the belief held by some scientists and educated laypeople that consciousness is an inexplicable mystery. It is likely true that consciousness only emerges in organisms endowed with nervous systems, but it is just as true that consciousness also requires abundant interactions between those systems and many non-nervous parts of the organism Antonio Damasio, “Opinion: Being, Read More ›
Recently, an article in Neuroscience News made some confusing claims, especially the claim that robots can have experiences in the same sense as living entities can. Let’s look at some of them: In an article from HSE University in Russia about about developing robotic intelligence based on the human brain, we read: Today, neuroscience and robotics are developing hand in hand. Mikhail Lebedev, Academic Supervisor at HSE University’s Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, spoke about how studying the brain inspires the development of robots. HSE University, “How Modern Robots Are Developed” at Neuroscience News February 3, 2021 One identified goal is to merge “biological organisms with machines, to create cybernetic organisms (cyborgs).” Given that the human brain does not really behave Read More ›
The quest is a curious blend of forlorn hope fueled by half-acknowledged hype and resolute denial of the most serious problems. Also by sometimes systematic confusion as to what, precisely, we are talking about.