At 7/1/2012 10:59:26 AM, Thaumaturgy wrote:
At 7/1/2012 6:50:38 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At what point in the evolution of inanimate to life complex living beings did sentience come into existence, how about consciousness, how did a complex arrangement of inanimate matter become living, sentient, and conscious?
There are many examples of the development of the "brain". Everything from the development of nerve cells to anterior ganglia to simple up to more complex brains.
The concept of "sentience" is probably so fraught with nebulous ideals that one would have to have a specific question around this. Overall something as difficult ot nail down as "sentience" is probably a function of the complexity of the system. A secondary trait of a neural network.
No way, the hard problem of consciousness will never reduce down to a mechanistic explanation, like the aforementioned problem with DNA, the mere association of corresponding physical changes does not constitute an explanatory mechanism, and as also previously mentioned, "emergent" is not an explanatory term, it's a descriptive term. In my business there is a widely used saying that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", but that it just something we say for comic relief. You don't just get to say "sufficiently complex" and viola, something "emerges" as if by magic, scientifically speaking, it needs to include an effective causal sequence if you are going to call something explanatory, and we both know "magic" doesn't cut it.
There is some unexplained principle involved that certainly appears to manifest itself in self organizing wholes.
Actually not necessarily so. In the case of your first questions the "driving mechanism" is little more than basic chemistry, albeit complex, but still underlain by standard chemical concepts. There is little to really break down "life" from "non-life". They both use the same chemistry.
The higher order questions are probably still manifestly underlain by purely natural processes.
I'm not advocating "unnatural" processes as explanations, I'm saying that there are natural principles that need to be researched, discovered, and applied to explain the higher order questions, evolutionary theory's requisite abiogenesis problem has brought physics and biology together with an interdisciplinary problem that is exciting, let's recall that I'm simply trying to suggest a fruitful line of investigation for this kid so perhaps he can make a difference.
Is the principle that caused the first self replicating cell to become a single unified whole the same principle that caused single celled creatures to form colonies that became multi-cellular creatures, and become unified into single sentient entities at some point?
Sponges are a great example of a "living thing" which may actually be a colony. No one would probably call it "sentient" but it shows a stepping stone from individuals in a colonial setting (such as a coral) up to a colony of specialized cells and so forth. The fact that ultimately we wind up with animals like us is not an indication of any sort of guidance or causative principal. It could have just happened. We all use the same chemistry and the same elements largely.
You reductionists just love to say "it could have just happened" but no, it couldn't, we don't get to invoke "magic" in science. You can't make randomness a principle, randomness is not a principle, it's the absence of a principle, and when you really think it through, the increasing complexity of the observed universe cannot be explained as fortuitous randomness, there is something more than meets the mechanistic eye happening here.
I'm not suggesting that you look outside of science for answers, ‘God did it" isn't an answer, it just begs questions, and the word emergent is descriptive rather than explanatory, it isn't an answer either, in effect it says "something from nothing", which also begs questions.
The "something from nothing" in this case doesn't really apply. The "nothing" in this case is actually just plain old chemistry. The rules that drive reactions in the sink when you put some soap in the water are at their heart electrostatic interactions. Polar-nonpolar, chemical affinity, quantum mechanical interactions, electron affinity, electronegativity, size/charge ratios, etc. etc.
No, it isn't just plain old chemistry, its plain old chemistry with a twist added, something else needs to be happening here. Much like Einstein's Relativity theory was just plain old Classical Physics with the twist of the constant speed of light from all frames of reference added to it, and look how fruitful that was, all kinds of value dropped out of the formulas when he worked through the mathematics.
The rules that drive reactions in the sink when you put some soap in the water are at their heart electrostatic interactions. Polar-nonpolar, chemical affinity, quantum mechanical interactions, electron affinity, electronegativity, size/charge ratios, etc. etc.
It's interesting that you added "quantum mechanical interactions" to your description of "plain old" chemistry, quantum mechanics isn't just plain old physics by any stretch of the imagination, and it all really started in 1905 with those three papers young Einstein wrote. He didn't like where that went any more than you want to like where this chain of reasoning might go, and I think Thomas Kuhn explained that pretty well. But the fact remains that something is going on here that is very hard to take a picture of, something is missing from our current models and it's clearly going to transcend the analytical and mechanistic paradyme to include the more synthetic approach of top down system's thinking..and the point here is that it's a fruitful line of investigation.
I'm posing questions rather than proclaiming to have answers here, but let me be more explicit about where I think this quest for explanations needs to go. The world is certainly receiving energy from the sun, the differences in temperature provides motive power to the Earth, so spontaneous changes on Earth are accompanied by an increase in randomness of the energy distributed in the system. That's certainly your point, "in theory", when you rely on increasing complexity to account for the "magical" emergence of completely new things, but the law of cause and effect doesn't really allow now things to just "emerge", as if by magic, there needs to be an explanatory principle and it has yet to be developed or discovered, depending on your point of view. Einstein showed us that matter and energy are different forms of the same thing. So Kelvin's first law necessarily needs to be modified into a broader conceptual scheme regarding the conservation of energy/matter. We aren't just talking about the distribution of heat and random motion anymore and we have to redefine the definition of disorder and in the process, I think we will necessarily achieve some progress along the lines of new explanatory principles when we do. The second law does not take into account the observed fact that natural form building activities are occurring over time. Self-integrated units of matter are in fact observed opposing the predicted statistical trend toward randomness. Manmade systems impose shape and order from outside, and they break down, classical entropy applies there. But there are naturally forming units of matter, the hydrogen atom, ice crystals, protein molecules, and the biggie, life, are units whose form is organized within. They all show a tendency to protect themselves from dissolution and repair themselves from within when they have been disturbed or damaged. We need not think of it as imposed from outside by the way, but we are observing a universe in which entities of matter are increasing form and complexity in space and time, and they are clearly defying the second law.