Tuesday, September 11, 2012


It is interesting to note that a group of neuroscientists convening at Cambridge University signed a document on 07-07-2012, officially declaring that non-human animals, “including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses” are conscious. It is not a path breaking discovery, but telling the obvious. We wonder why they left out plants. They also function similarly and respond to touch (hand or sun-light or musical sound). True, because of their rigid cell structure, they do not have locomotion, but in all other aspects they are as conscious as human beings.

The basic division between plants, all other living beings except humans, and humans is in the flow pattern of food and energy in their systems. The flow in plants is directed “upwards” – from root to tip. In the animals etc, it is sideways. Only in humans, it is top-down. Human beings are the only living beings that can copulate in their normal posture facing each other. All others have to bend.

Before asserting that: “Consciousness, indeed, has to exist in a rudimentary form in all particles of matter. To put it another way, particles of matter must be a form of consciousness”, one must precisely and scientifically define what is consciousness. In that case, it will be noticed that the material particles by themselves are inert, plants and other animals exhibit a mixed character and only human beings are conscious. Because only human beings can plan for the future, whereas others respond to situations based on their memory. Memory is not the same as consciousness, because it is about remembering the result of past observation of objects when they come in contact with other similar objects – hence object centric, whereas consciousness is about not only observation of objects, but about the mechanism of observation also even in the absence of objects - hence observation centric. Hence only humans can plan their actions meticulously.

There are two more differences. The plants have only one sense organ – touch. The birds, etc that are born out of eggs are deficient in one of the sense organs. The others except human beings have five sensory organs, but they are not balanced – some function exceedingly well, whereas others are deficient. Only in humans, they are balanced.

Voluntary motion differentiates conscious from the inert. Hence the agency of motion classifies the evolutionary state of a living being. The virus and bacteria have numerous projections on their body that act like “legs”. Hence they are at the bottom of the evolutionary cycle. Gradually the centipede, the sixteen legged, the ten, eight, six, four legged evolve. Finally the human beings with two legs evolve. This puts them at the top of the evolutionary table. Monkeys, who generally are four legged, can walk in two legs and use their fore legs as hands. Hence, they came immediately before humans. It is not correct that humans evolved from monkeys, as by this time there would have been no monkeys. In any case, we refuse to accept that our fore fathers were monkeys.

In a recent experiment concerning a man missing huge portions of his cerebral cortex, it was thought that he would lose at least some of his self-awareness. Patient R, also known as Roger, defies that expectation. Roger is a 57-year-old man who suffered extensive brain damage in 1980 after a severe bout of herpes simplex encephalitis—inflammation of the brain caused by the herpes virus. The disease destroyed most of Roger’s insular cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), all brain regions thought to be essential for self-awareness. About 10 percent of his insula remains and only one percent of his ACC. Roger cannot remember much of what happened to him between 1970 and 1980 and he has great difficulty forming new memories. He cannot taste or smell either. But he still knows who he is—he has a sense of self. He recognizes himself in the mirror and in photographs. To most people, Roger seems like a relatively typical man who does not act out of the ordinary.

Regarding the above experiments, it should be noted that the first is a mental function that acts mechanically. Like the matter particles have inertia, thought is the inertia of mind, as it is generated after the perception of some object that starts the memory of similar perceptions. Like ineria is destroyed due to contact with air, or any other obstruction, thought is destroyed due to pain, knowledge about the object or finding the object. Hence it is an inertia.

Since inertia including thought are mechanical functions, memory is also a mechanical function. However, consciousness is the "I" content in any perception. In all perceptions, it appears in similar ways, indicating its difference from conscious functions.

In the experiment, the person with brain damage could not remember past events because the inertia of thought that was based on stored information was damaged due to hardware malfunction. But consciousness or self-awareness is not hardware malfunction. Hence, both are not related.

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