Does thinking of the mind as a phenomenon of purely physiological origin have consequences for the way we interact with the world?
What brought the question to mind was a thought last night – that in my youth colours seemed more vivid and that many more of them were apparent then as well. Turning then to a painting on the wall I found that the colour had returned much as my clothing or hair become perceptible as soon as I consciously address them. From there it took me to the Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ (which I haven’t picked up for several years) and the concept of the mind as a funnel or filter, rather than an entity constructing my reality from pieces of information gathered from the world. The problem boils down to this; does my mind seek out the world to piece together some comprehension of it, or does the world essentially force itself on my mind?
The science of the nineteenth century was dominated by the perfectibility of knowledge. Fueled by the analytic/systematic distinction provided by Kant, the European thinkers of the day were bent on elucidating all the empirical rules that governed the universe. Even if the universe was infinite everything was potentially knowable and humans were capable of detached observation that could elucidate and name all these facts and rules.
In terms of development mammals are weird. We have clearly evolved a set of wacky adaptations to allow us not only to mature entirely within the parent, but also to do so without the huge supply of yolk common to most other animals. Think of your regular egg. That big ball of yolk is covered by a single plasma membrane and provides everything that chicken needs for the roughly twenty-one days it takes to go from laying to hatching. As a freaky aside, that entire chicken (if fertilized) will grow from a small white mass (the blastodisc) visible on every single store-bought egg. Mammals, not having that whole bunch of rich and yummy stuff to eat in the weeks it usually takes them to develop, instead do a whole bunch of crazy things for which there is no real comparison elsewhere, except that a lot these structures (the amnion and alantois) are also present in the the eggs of birds and reptiles. What we’ve got here is a whole suite of adaptations used grow new organisms on land, which would be completely mind-boggling if you didn’t consider the 600 million years (that’s 219 billion days, to put it in perspective) that it has taken these systems to develop to their current state.
There are a number of ways the soul, a theoretical conundrum as indemonstrable as the creator herself, could have come to be. Ernst Haeckel tells us that it’s not taken a bit from mom and a bit from dad, nor does it lie in wait until called upon, and it’s not a germ passed from Adam on down. It just is, and arises as such at the moment of fertilization, not coitus. While this strangely drawn argument could collude with certain anti-abortion sentiments, it is actually from the mind of man who considered himself a staunch liberal and free-thinker. Darwin’s champion in Germany, lover of that compounding of words so fancied in German, is credited with first identifying the kingdom Protista and coining the terms ecology, phylogeny and ontology. A vexing character whose books on evolution far outsold Darwin’s Origin and Descent of Man, Haeckel was lambasted by Stephen Jay Gould for his “irrational mysticism” who also characterized Haeckel’s science as “dogmatic, unfounded and distinctly non-Darwinian.”
A model of the structure of ATP synthase - found in nearly all animal and plant cells.
Since I became interested in Blender several months ago I have been convinced of the potential applications of modelling in science. Obviously communications are greatly enhanced by the 3d models we can easily make these days, but there are also people out there using modelling to investigate basic science questions relating to biological systems. One such individual is Aleksei Aksimentiev, at the University of Illinois. Check out this brief podcast (and associated article) from EarthSky.org:
For the first four months of 2010 I spent a great deal of time trying to elucidate, as a member of the pos-post-modernist era (an era so ill-defined we haven’t gotten around to naming it yet), what a political ecology means. Beyond just defining this broad term, I had tasked myself with building it particularly in the context of social problems such as crime, abuse, poverty and homelessness. The ecological enters from my faith based belief that the formula for human happiness includes an inextricable coupling of the natural and artificial worlds.
Contemporary understanding of what it is to be human has been morphed again and again by advancing scientific understanding. First the human went from the animistic spirit thing, then on to the the polytheistic and monotheistic soul as a specific embodiment of god(s). With the dawn of the renaissance and positivism religious definitions finally became moot and the search began anew for an all encompassing definition of humanity. Mechanistic Cartesianisms came to dominate and have done so through much of contemporary thought, causing conflict and contention with the religious definitions of the self that attempt to reconcile themselves with the modern world-view.