Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

Jon Cleland Host

Duane, you wrote:

The article describes a single celled organism without any neural structure that is “pointing its ocelloid in different directions.”

Sure.  My wind chime out my window points in different directions.  It’s not hard at all to have a mechanism that points in different directions.  Then, a simple light sensitive spot on it will be pointed in different directions, and a mechanical apparatus attached to that can cause the cell to have a response.  There is no need for consciousness in any of this, and none shown by the article. 

It is  looking for its prey, not simply passively and mechanically responding to its environment, and it is doing this without any nerves or brain. There is choiceful or deliberate action….

Completely unsupported speculation.  
The article shows nothing that requires anything beyond simple mechanical systems.

If your airplane analogy came with 1) a craft that had no wiring inside (or neural network) and 3) no autopilot mechanism (or brain) and 3) was still making active searches and responding to what it “sees” without any wiring or autopilot device, then it would have corresponding connection and relevance. It does not. So I don’t see any connection between your example and this single celled plankton.

Simply false.  As has been pointed out, by a biologist who understands this, there are molecular mechanisms which play all the roles of wires and switches.  There is no mystery in that cell – it works by well understood mechanical devices, just like the plane.  Do you understand that the motions and responses are the direct result of understood molecular machines?  That’s why it’s a useful analogy.

Lastly, I respectfully but profoundly disagree with your quick dismissal of my question of “who programmed the autopilot” on your plane, saying “who cares?” and it’s not “relevant.” You are dismissing the “hard problem” of consciousness and attributing behavior to simple chemistry. This appears to be reductionist and mechanistic thinking so as to avoid dealing with the presence of consciousness.

It sounds like I may have been unclear.  I dismissed it because in either case, the mechanisms that make it work are understood.  If you like, I can continue it instead of dismissing it, hopefully making it clear why it’s irrelevant.

So, who designed the self driving car?  A human being.  A human being can construct mechanical systems that work together to provide action in response to stimulus.  In the case of the cell in the article, natural selection designed it.  A natural selection can construct mechanical systems that work together to provide action in response to stimulus.  In both the cases of the self driving car and the cell, understood mechanical system cause one motion to happen after an outside stimulus triggers them.  Just like a mousetrap.  The outside stimulus presses on the catch, and the trap springs.  The ability of the mousetrap to “consider” springing, and “make a conscious choice” to snap doesn’t make it conscious.