Theory of Consciousness as a Biological Imperative

[quote=“citizenschallengev4, post:39, topic:9840, full:true”]
All that being what it is, that’s still the microscopic realm and we human live in a different realm.

But that’s like saying an electrical wire is in the microscopic realm and we humans live in Houses. How would you like to live without electricity?

Besides, I believe it would be stretching it to say that microtubules controlled life’s evolution - even if they are ubiquitous in living creatures.

No, microtubules do not control evolution. Small errors in gene copying cause evolution.

Because with every turn of increased biological complexity, interactions becomes an increasingly important factor. Think about “consciousness” at whatever level you want, it’s an interaction, nothing static about it.

And that is what makes microtubules the only candidate for the job.
They do the dynamic processing of data and create the “action potentials” that cause the dynamics in living organisms, which start with the cilia and flagella providing motility in single-celled organisms like the Paramecium.

You keep talking about “small”, because microtubules are ~ 20 nm

Allow me to put this in proper perspective.

Transmitting fibers in the brain: Total length and distribution of lengths

The human brain’s approximately 86 billion neurons are probably connected by something like 850,000 km of axons and dendrites. Of this total, roughly 80% is short-range, local connections (averaging 680 microns in length), and approximately 20% is long-range, global connections in the form of myelinated fibers (likely averaging several centimeters in length).

And this is just in the brain alone! If you want to add the total length of the body’s neural network then we end up with something like ;

The nervous system: more than 90,000 miles of sensations!

The structure of the nervous system

The nervous system allows our bodies to perceive sensations, to think and to perform all of our movements, both voluntary and involuntary. It is composed of the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves.

Anatomically speaking, the nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord, which are the interpretation and command centers), and the peripheral nervous system, which is composed of the nerves (the transmission network).

And the actual components inside neurons doing the actual work are…
microtubules, also called the data transport highways much like the copper wiring and switches in electric cables and data processors inside a computer.

I thought you might bring some perspective.

Maybe a little woo-ish, but there’s the idea that consciousness is that space between our automatic reactions and our frontal lobe thinking. I’ve heard that expressed in a few ways. It’s not really a space, it happens so fast, it’s just “now”.

At first I couldn’t see this as mathematically likely, then I realized it’s already happened. Imagine being around 4 billion years ago and seeing the first signs on life, and predicting that would eventually be playing Monday Night Football.

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:laughing: lol…

And realizing that 99% of all species that ever lived are extinct. The numbers and varieties add up to astronomically large.

Imagine the BB and the ensuing inflationary epoch in a total chaotic state of pure energetic plasma, until the first elementary patterns began to self-form as the cooling had a stabilizing effect and the first elementary particles appeared, combined, and evolved into the incredible universal landscape we are now studying with the Webb telescope.
image image

Ultimately there is no “irreducible complexity”.
That concept inevitably leads to a notion of a supernatural motivated creator agency rather than a stochastic quasi-intelligent mathematical creative guiding principle which is observable, measurable, testable, and falsifiable.

Nonsense. That’s you playing games.

Or are you claiming there’s no difference between the microscopic realm and the microscope realm we live in?

Oh I know, you’re going to tell me it’s just molecular patterns that are difference from atomic patterns. No worries.

Well at least that’s settled, thank god for small favors.
So microtubules aren’t actually the answer to everything?

For what they do!
But that doesn’t make them the only component of the consciousness process worth getting familiar with.

Your magic with scale is fascinating, but irrelevant to the observation that microtubules operate in a totally different physical environment than we do.

Yeah, that’s pretty small

What are you arguing about?
That we can have a football team made up of all quarterbacks?

Here’s a nifty article, I like it’s more balanced tone.
Erik W. Dent, PhD and Peter W. Baas, PhD

Ah, but think of how many of their genes survived beyond their demise, only to live on in others.

Okay, but that’s just an advertising stunt by propagandists playing politics.
It’s not why so many people grasp for, and cling to, religious thinking.

I missing your distinction. If you want to say mind and body are part of one continuum, then where is this microscopic line you are pointing to?

I didn’t say brain/body is part of a continuum of mind.
I’m saying body/brain creates mind.
Brain/body is inextricably interwoven into each other, when philosophers ask who is the ‘watcher’ I find an easy answer in the body itself. The body/brain are watching their own output, that is the essence of mind.

As in consciousness being the inside reflection of your physical body dealing with itself and the world it’s embedded within.

As in our bodies are physical biological observation instruments (creatures) inextricably linked to our genetic heritage. The output of all that biology is our thoughts, our mind, our sense of self. As it should be.

From there ya need to go to Antonio Damasio and and Mark Solms and such for an introduction to the biological reality I speak of. Which yes is made up of microtubules, but with oh so much more added to the mix, as complexities were piled on top of complexities these past 600 million years.

Oh, as for “that microscopic line” seems to me the HumanConnectomeProject is showing us where that is. I have learned to appreciate that the project has suffered some blistering attacks, but that has more to do with mega-projects and allocation of resources, and also a good deal of over-reach and over-hype in original assumptions and expects. Go figure, I’m shocked, simply shocked.

Also, to clarify an earlier comment, these images are more computation than any image per se. Still it’s a start based on real physical facts. How well humans work with those facts is yet another matter.

I understand what you are saying, but it is a generalized statement. Most of the body is water and chemicals that you can find everywhere even in non-conscious objects.

It is true that the biochemicals of the body are reactive to environmental conditions, but my focus rests on the system that processes the electrochemical data because it is in the processing of data that consciousness emerges . That system is usually addressed by another generality as the “neural network” or the “brain” and that is also true but does not specifically address the how and the specific organelles that are involved in the actual data processing that gives rise to “sapience”.

The brainless Mimosa plant reacts to insult, but is not consciously aware. The single-celled Paramecium reacts to obstacles as it swims, but is not consciously aware. The Slime mold can solve mazes as it seeks food and even shows preference, but is not truly self-aware. These are evolved reactive behaviors and may be called proto-conscious behaviors.

And conscious behavior in humans turns out to be generated by 90 000 miles of microtubules networking and a brain that has some 100 billion microtubules and some 100 trillion synapses processes various types of data and creating fields that are experienced as thoughts (sentience) and “considered choice” (sapience).

True consciousness emerges in brained animals, even in insects and bees that are able to organize and respond to threats, requiring much more sophisticated reactive abilities than just passive defensive behaviors.

So within this great diversity of survival behaviors there is no demarcation line between consciousness, sentience, sapience, and intelligence. Each survival mechanism is just another step on the evolutionary ladder and over time passively (mathematically) organized by natural selection.

But regardless of size, shape or (bio)chemistry, there is one common denominator data processing and transportation system that runs through all Eukaryotic organisms and that is the microtubule network.

Microtubules are not only ubiquitous in humans, but they are ubiquitous in ALL extant Eukaryotic life on earth. Their power lies in the ability to transport data between individual cells and between body and brain.

That is why I keep agreeing with you in principle, but you keep disagreeing with me in particular.

Then you come up with a cheap shot like:

No. I’m afraid you don’t understand what I’m trying to get across.

Which incidentally happened way before humans showed up!

Now, for my conversation you must first make the leap from microscopic to the evolutionary human realm, categorized under humanism and liberal arts and such, as in, distinct from microbiology.
Not that microbiology isn’t awesome. It is. In fact an awareness of it undergirds all this hippy dippy appreciating Mother Earth stuff I’m pumping out. Because, in fact, it is Earth that created us and Earth that will swallow us, and to it seems to me the most fundamental issue people need to get to grips with these day.

{With this nifty new science discovery stuff being of secondary concern, more frosting on the cake than anything else. Not that I don’t love it and follow it}

After all, the greatest problem these days is that no one wants to learn from what we already know! What the heck is more esoteric trivia to catalogue going to do?

Has anyone defined that? Can you define true consciousness?

Heck can you define the difference between a body’s consciousness and its homeostatic processes, that are always touching base with the conscious realm, even when that realm is sleeping, and ready to kick upper-consciousness back into high gear at the drop of a certain stimuli.

You have claimed a clear divide between conscious and unconscious,
whereas I see something more like a continuum of punctuated plateaus of awareness (that we still understand only in outline - that according to experts in the field.

I hope you’re not saying in that order. In fact, good place to start this journey is to come up with the realistic continuum and some definitions; awareness, consciousness, self-aware, learning, introspective (guess that would be your sapience). I’ve tried finding something, but my simple searches have come up empty. Has anyone done it?

Oh, and I’m not sure “intelligence” belongs in there since it could be argued that even single cells have intelligence, it’s the accumulation of intelligence that starts producing results, since it has to interact with a hostile world. Intelligence seems closer to awareness.

And no one has been denying that.

Okay, so then, how can you turn around and say these ubiquitous microtubules are the key to understand the human leap in consciousness abilities?

That doesn’t compute logically and I’ll bet it doesn’t compute mathematically.

I have demonstrated what I believe was the cause for the extraordinary “leap” from conscious awareness to advanced sapience in humans. A genetic mutation that can be traced to where the chromosome count between humans and all other great apes differs. Humans have 46 pr chromosomes, all other apes have 48 pr chromosomes. This is definitive proof of a mutational evolutionary “leap” in intelligent behavior.

And confirms the presence of mathematics in the equation!

For all other species (including great apes) it is the normal evolutionary path of small incremental refinement and complexity of the microtubular network in response to different environmental pressures. This is confirmed by the intellectual lag in other great apes, that evolved in the more conventional way.

Humans are a young species benefitting from billions of years of prior evolution in cellular complexity and later in neural complexity and finally in a lucky accidental (beneficial) mutation causing a sudden leap in brain complexity and intelligence.

Can you imagine how an octopus with 8 brains experiences its environment and has the physical ability to shapeshift its own body configuration to match that environment. We know it is conscious and self-aware and intelligent.
Octopi have a very advanced physical and brained microtubular network.
But is it sapient? I bet it is.

So, that made it worse. I just glanced at that site a while back, and now it has warnings about not being able to verify itself. So, I watched a short intro video. I thought you were going for something very much not like that, that you can’t map brain activity to certain behaviors or functions, that it’s more a function of the whole, including the nerves throughout the body. So, I’m back to square one, or maybe -1.

I agree completely…and it is due to the early self-organization of microtubules from a simple tubulin dimer into a commonly artificially copied natural dipolar coiled pattern.


Not sure what you mean, link works fine for me. Beyond that, please notice I was very nuanced in my words and acknowledge real issues with making too much of those images. Though they are data driven and meaningful!

But still those images do show, maybe not how, but where the brain is communicating.
Imagining the mind is probably akin to imaging at atom in so far as it’ll always be other than it really is, but what feeling does it convey.

Atoms can be figured mathematically, minds are a tad too complex for that.

Guess one’s philosophical outlook comes into play. The western mind always seems to be seeking, if not demanding, certainty (even if they need to make it up) as though we deserve (certainty) or something.

Me, I’m a bit more wavy gravy, I don’t expect anything to be exactly the way it seems,
and I wonder why do so many feel an expectation, a right, to Know Everything, that need to seek a presumption of Certainty?

That was Descartes thing, when it all boils down to it.
Wasn’t it?
He was seeking perfection, certitude of knowledge.
To me it seems a fool’s errand.

Connectome Programs

Launched in 2009 as a Blueprint Grand Challenge, the NIH Human Connectome Project (HCP) is an ambitious effort to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function. The overarching purpose of the Project is to acquire and share data about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain. It will greatly advance the capabilities for imaging and analyzing brain connections, resulting in improved sensitivity, resolution, and utility, thereby accelerating progress in the emerging field of human connectomics. Understanding these wiring patterns within and across individuals will help researchers begin to decipher the electrical signals that generate our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


HCP has produced stunning maps of neural fibers crisscrossing the brain. It has revolutionized the mapping of connections in the human brain, and has laid foundational groundwork for using brain imaging measures of connectivity as an aid in diagnosis of disease. HCP has had a transformative impact on the field, paving the way toward a detailed understanding of how our brain circuitry changes as we age and how it differs in psychiatric and neurologic illness. Altogether, HCP will lead to major advances in our understanding of what makes us uniquely human and will set the stage for future studies of abnormal brain circuits in many neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The technical advances achieved already in HCP have transformed the field and allowed the neuroscience research community to aggregate data in unprecedented ways. Importantly, all of the data produced by HCP is freely shared with the research community through a customized database created by the Blueprint funded Connectome Coordination Facility. Over 100 publications emerged from the initial HCP data release.

HCP began in September 2010 when Blueprint awarded $40 million to two collaborating research consortia to map the human brain’s connections in high resolution. These two major cooperative agreements took complementary approaches to deciphering the brain’s complex wiring diagram. Both efforts built upon existing multidisciplinary collaborations and employed a multiple PI leadership approach that provided a rigorous system of organization and oversight to each program.

The two research consortia that were established to pursue these complementary five-year projects were:

The WU/Minn Project

Washington University in St. Louis/University of Minnesota/Oxford University (the WU-Minn HCP consortium) – co-led by Dr. David Van Essen and Dr. Kamil Ugurbil - set out to comprehensively map human brain circuitry in 1200 healthy adults using cutting-edge methods of noninvasive neuroimaging.

I think it was Will Durant’s “The Story of Philosophy” where I first got the full description of what Descartes did. Before him, people didn’t necessarily see themselves as independent minds. The ancient ideas of spirits and gods controlling us was more prevalent. So, Renee sits and thinks, and finds his own existence. I think that was a good step for us, taking us out of the worlds where someone could claim to have a connection to those magic powers so they could tell us what to think.

But, as Durant says, it left us on an island that reason couldn’t get us off from. Descartes solves it by saying there must be some perfect being out there beyond it all, basically an argument for God, which is why you probably didn’t hear about that in public school. It wasn’t until Hume, who put his efforts into being skeptical, asking “why” about everything, where we started have a way off that island. However, he found if you do that, you’re still stuck, needing to consider every move you make.

Nietzsche added that the average person probably needs something like religion, because in his time, there wasn’t a well-developed theory of morality to replace it. He worried about would happen without it. I’d say secular morality has been the important issue of the last century, and 20th century philosophers used language that was a little too esoteric for the rest of us.

Bottom line, if you realize that we are part of nature, and it’s your basic instinct to survive, which includes always looking for a way to make your life better, the natural conclusion is, be good to people, don’t poop in your own water, show compassion so others show it to you. No theory of mind or philosophy of consciousness can avoid that. That’s hard for a lot of people, because it means doing things that don’t have an immediate payoff. It means admitting your mistakes.

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One minor observation I learned from a comment made by Ricky Gervais.

Knowing “why” doesn’t change anything, knowing “how” does.
You cannot change anything knowing “why”, you can change everything knowing “how”.

That seems more the gratuitous platitude of a comedian performing to an audience than useful, seems to me both are quite important and often intermingle, if you don’t get one, the other often doesn’t quite click into place.

I’ve now had the chance to listen and read Descartes “Method” from 1637 and found it way more accessible and relatable than I’d have imaged, which is why I’m in my third go through. It’s tricky though, my audio is a Penguin Classics and I have an ebook PDF, but that’s a Gutenberg Project translation and it’s rather different in all the important places.

Be wonderful to be a scholar and have all the time to play with all that jazz, and sort it out, but (besides a chaotic nature) my time is chopped up and committed to too many other things, it maddening sometimes. But it’s my choices and all good, but sometimes a little more time alone would be wonderful. Ain’t that life, every act requires foregoing something else. Enough about me.

I agree with what you wrote, it’s like, although Descartes was quite full of himself, wrapped in modesty, that’s what it takes to do what he did. Not to mention his focus and tenacity.

It’s not even so much any uniqueness in his thoughts, (which he acknowledges), because fundamental I think he’s wrestling with the thoughts that every inquisitive intelligent child must work through for themselves as they progress from dependent child to independent adult - and almost unanimously we settled the questions early on, call it good, and put them away, so we can get on our particle treadwheel, partner (or not) and getting on with life. Only the few never let go, they get educated, are left alone to think and write and talk and so they never let go trying to explain all the basic questions humans have asked themselves since forever.

Descartes was very big on creating something that would help people and future generations, he felt it was his duty, although I’ll bet many thought the guy crazy during his life. Fortunately, not everyone. I find myself relating to Descartes, I was raised to be curious, appreciative and have sense of duty towards others, and it’s that caring and fair play on my part that made my current amazing and rather improbable situation possible. So thee ol, what goes around comes around, has something to it. Or to put it another way, what “you are present to” will determine your days. All quite simple.

All that said, the fact remains that Descartes knew nothing about science, or physics, or biology, or geology, beyond religious writings and a few scholarly works. Descartes physiology wasn’t any better than what a curious, intelligent, inquisitive butcher could have known and surmised. Biology, was none existent to him. All he had was his mind, religious doctrine and dogma and maybe a few hundred learned manuscripts, most of them consisting of more pretense than substance. Descartes was in his late 30s when he wrote that.

By the time I was 13 {thanks to the particular time I entered grade school} (1960), when DNA, Atomic Age, Miller Experiment, Tectonics Revolution, Space Race, was all the buzz, kids like me knew more about serious science than Descartes and all the scholars put together in the 1600s, and 1700s.
Then in my adult life, the march of understanding regarding life and geologic evolution here on Earth has been phenomenal this past half century I’ve been an attentive witness to.

Descartes had no choice but to withdraw into his mind as he struggled with making sense out of reality, because he knew nothing written in his day was trustworthy.

But today we have the advantage of more than two centuries of serious science and the acquired knowledge of how life on Earth evolved and how people evolved out of that milieu.

We have the ability to understand we are evolved biological observation based creatures the proud inheritors of a billion years worth of complex biology evolving.

A Theory of Consciousness requires an appreciation for what happened during the Ediacaran and Cambrian Periods when certain complex cells broke off and started creating complex cell colonies and then creatures and then, by and by, us along with many other marvels. All built around sensing and understanding the world around it.

Rather than Descarte’s primative “I Think Therefore I Am” which is a blind alley for our modern mind, the reality is that Earth made me and you, and Consciousness and Mind is at its most fundamental level the inside reflection of a creature dealing with itself and the circumstances of its life. Each to its own kind.

“I Am, Therefore I Think”

And how do we think? How do bacteria think? How do trees think?

Microtubules, I’m sure. :wink:

In order for your brain to think, you need nerve cells that can detect information about the outside world and can transmit that information to other nerve cells . It’s the transmission of information, the cells talking to each other, that’s the fundamental physical basis for how thinking works.

It helps to understand the way that bacteria “think.” Their cells contain a number of receptors, and each one affects a certain behavior or trait in the bacteria, for example where to move, how to function, even whether to become virulent.

Trees in a forest of the same species are connected by the roots, which grow together like a network . Their root tips have highly sensitive brain-like structures that can distinguish whether the root that it encounters in the soil is its own root, the root of another species, or the roots of its own species.

We have a good understanding of how sensing, communication and thinking works.

To say we don’t, is like the mathematician that tells me a circle doesn’t exist in nature, in fact that a circle doesn’t exist at all.

Why because that’s what they decided, if it isn’t a 100.00 percent perfect vector circle, it’s nothing. That’s a case of philosophy and idiocy rolled in one. Why? Because it ignores the relativity of wrong and the fact that perfect is a human construct and possible with the simplest of physics and elements, but as soon a biology comes into it, the complexities out weight notions of the ideal or nothing.

I don’t think it’s required to be able to answer every last question about the “how” of consciousness and self-reflection, to have the base honesty to recognize and admit that nature has figured it, and that it’s very real, otherwise it seems interactions between animals would be impossible.

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