Neuroscientists clearly tired of not making headway with that elusive thing we call consciousness have come up with a novel one size fits all idea that if implemented; will change the face of science forever.
It’s the idea that inanimate objects have consciousness and it’s something that’s gaining steam in the science field.
The story of how what is called panpysychism got off the ground is an interesting one. It came about through a misinterpretation of a biologist’s findings; then it got to be conceptualized in a way that was never intended.
When you see a name prefixed by the word pan it’s a combo that literally means all- inclusive.
An associate professor of behavioral medicine Dr Martin Picard specializes in both psychiatry and neurology; and is on a unique quest to understand what makes humans human.
Picard’s expertise is mitochondria, they are structures found within nearly all cells that have a nucleus and provide most of the chemical energy used in their various biochemical tasks; they like batteries in a way.
He sees something else as well; last year he and another Swiss scientist published a paper in the journal Neuroscience.
They posited that mitochondria do not merely keep us alive, but in many ways, have lives of their own.
They are perhaps even ‘social’ creatures ……..
“Similar to individuals in social networks, mitochondria communicate with each other and with the cell nucleus, exhibit group formation and interdependence……”
Then there’s this conclusion; If mitochondria are conscious beings, then we have trillions of these brainless ‘beings’ in every cell of our bodies.
Now this idea seems absurd until you consider a scientific concept which could explain it:
Panpsychism is the idea that consciousness is inextricably linked to all matter and simply grows stronger as a physical object becomes more complex.
But this is not what the scientists had in mind when they wrote their article.
Picard said; “I do not know enough about panpsychism to make an informed comment.”) At the same time, their discovery is just one more piece of fascinating scientific trivia that could be explained by this revolutionary theory.
The appeal of Panpsychism stems from the fact that scientists cannot explain what consciousness — the thing that gives you a mind and makes you self-aware — actually is.
While most scientists and philosophers are monists- meaning they believe our mind directly come from our physical bodies- dualistic ideas are still quite prevalent in our culture.
The problem is a lot of regular people, who are not philosophers, are dualists, because they believe in the mind or the soul as a separate entity from their physical being, their physical body,” says David Skrbina, a philosopher and author of the book “Panpsychism in the West.
Although dualists insist that monists have some challengers.
They have to accommodate mind and consciousness within a physicalist framework, which is arguably quite difficult,” Skrbina explained. “And that’s been sort of one of the central challenges today, is to figure out how to not be a dualist, but still explain the reality, the evident reality of mind and consciousness.”
This is where they think panpsychism fills the void. It offers an explanation for consciousness that doesn’t try to do an end run around the known laws of the physical world, but assumes consciousness is an intrinsic part of it; in other words it’s a feature of the universe.
The argument goes like this; because the human brain is made up of the same basic matter as everything else in existence, “the most natural view seems to be that [consciousness] is a general feature of matter.”
Hence, panpsychism — this idea that matter, in general, is conscious, regardless of whether it is an organism or not.
Which is one hell of a stretch, or too much of a stretch but nonetheless?
Then what about the opposition to panpsychism?
One problem is that skeptics feel it’s ludicrous at face value.
The trouble is Panpsychists have a different idea of what constitutes consciousness.
Consciousness is just subjectivity, and so they think it makes sense for consciousness to exist in simple forms.
Whereas critics think that’s just a mix-up: that once you take away thought, reasoning, the senses etc. that’s it, there’s nothing left to talk about.
The obvious next question, then, is: what is conscious? And how does it separate itself? Would a rock or a table have a single unified conscious — or perhaps something bigger, like a planet, or even a solar system?
Conventional thought has always been life precedes consciousness with the idea the universe itself is conscious; being a Buddhist notion.
All this has religious connotations and seems to be leading to pantheism; a direction neuroscience has been heading for quite some time.
Pantheism is a belief that God is in everything and everyone also it’s an acceptance of many gods.
For example God is the universe and all people are God.
It’s synonymous with Buddhism and Hinduism and other New Age Religions.
Thus neuroscience seems to be turning into just another religion in a lot of respects.