My Approach Speech 2015
My talk 2015 Title- Human Physical Dualism,
not religious or Cartesian dualism.
My approach to the conscious spectrum is physically evolved by a biologically driven separable dual interacting causation nervous system. Part conscious and part non-conscious.
That all sounds a bit involved but it is really quite simple, as it is how we are.
My theory is a paradigm shift physically redefining dualism.
Descartes confirmed the religious term dualism a few hundred years ago. He made it one part physical and the other some ethereal thing, and I want to reclaim it as being all physical. So the first thing to say is K I S which is Keep It Simple, and that’s what I intend to do.
Non-conscious autonomic life as far as I know:-
Trees and flowers have not evolved a brain but they do have an inherent capability in their structure which reacts to their environment.
Everything they require is taken care of by their fixed environmental position. Flowers open up in the morning and move with the sun and close in the evening, returning to their original position. They do allsorts of things through the seasons but they don’t have a brain. The Venus Flytrap has evolved the ability to capture flies and insects and digests them to gain the nutrition that otherwise it would not get from the atmosphere or the soil that it is growing in. The Sea Squirt is born with a brain, and after moving around and finding somewhere to locate itself on the seabed, where it will live there the rest of its life, it then proceeds to digest its brain. Which shows a couple of things really, that the brain is pretty useful for moving around and it also shows the economics of nature. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and I know several people that are in that state……but that’s another story!!
Often when the mind is discussed, the body is taken as such a banal subject that it does not get considered much, if at all. For me this is completely wrong, as I will explain with my theory. Looking at the brain without considering the body is rather like trying to see what an electronic control unit does without knowing what it is connected to or interacting with. The body forms the basis of memory due to its inherent retained capability, of its physical cyclical activity and interaction within itself and the environment, similar to trees flowers and other creatures. Bodies evolved without brains, but brains do not evolve without bodies. Which brings me to the homunculus argument, which is basically described in the film Men in Black, which I think was in the second one, where Will Smith and his colleague capture this humanoid robot and they open it’s skull. There inside is this little creature working all the controls and levers and the homunculus argument is, there is another little creature inside this little creature and there is another little creature inside that creature etc. etc. working the various little creatures. For me all that’s completely unnecessary. The body with all of its numerous autonomic non-conscious physical activity, by nature nurture is the driver of the driver of the mind. If anyone is in any doubt about that, try and stop breathing for an hour, try not going to the toilet for a week. Your body will be screaming at you telling you to do otherwise. This is what I mean by the body being the driver of the driver of the mind.
How much consciousness:-
It is interesting when considering what consciousness involves, that if you asked various neuroscientists how much of the brain activity they put down to consciousness, they’ll say something like “ Two or three squares of a chessboard”. Which leaves a huge amount - sixty odd squares coping with memory and all the unconsciousness autonomic functions that are going on within the body. I refer to the autonomic nervous system as all of the unconscious nervous system that controls and keeps alive all life 24/7. For some creatures this also completely includes the somatic nervous system, which refers to the system that moves muscles with senses both internal and external, for movement of limbs etc., which humans are conscious of. The somatic nervous system allows me to stand moving my arms around and talking to you. Some creatures have a relatively simple mono brain and nervous system to survive in their environment, as they are moved around by the elements and their biological physical needs. The environment aids their survival, their non-conscious autonomic brain being operated by their bodies causation sensors, sending the required non-conscious autonomic somatic physical action. These non-conscious senses are of course external and internal, similar to the Venus Flytrap. If they sense they need to go to the toilet, they just go to the toilet. If they sense hunger, they’ll non-consciously try to find food. If they find something to copulate with or fight or flee from, then they will do one or possibly all three non-consciously. It seems possible for some simple creatures to be aware of their self in the environment and reflect without necessarily being consciously self-aware of such or having conscious memory of their selves (see ref.). Human babies are aware of their selves in their environment without having conscious memory of their self-awareness until they are several months of age. Ref: The mark on the face in the mirror experiment which some animals also recognise. A simple creature, when I say simple creature of course it’s not simple at all. I use the term as David Chalmers uses the term and that is we know quite a lot of what goes on in these creatures. We understand quite a lot of how things function and if there’s something we’re not sure about, we can perhaps make up something similar, and in fact we do a pretty good job of that. We make automatic vacuum cleaners which will recharge itself, and at a time that’s convenient to us it will vacuum the house and return to its charging point. We make lawn mowers that will do a similar thing, and I expect the latest model will even empty itself, and perhaps do other things.
So it would have been a simple creature that would evolve a more complex system for the 3 F’s but this came at a cost. A complex system and brain needed more fuel to run and maintain. A way to conserve energy evolved so that part of the brain and body could be used when necessary, isolated and relaxed when not. This conservation of energy was to prove more advantageous for their environmental survival than all of the brain and body operational 24/7, sleep being different from hibernation. The separation occurred by a natural, gradual, physical transfer of the initiation of control of the somatic nervous system. Eventually this allowed its varied use when required, sleep when not, allowing the autonomic to function undisturbed. Conservation of energy is something that some people haven’t grasped. There are a lot of people that tend to leave lights on in the house, the television on whether they’re watching it or not. They haven’t quite grasped the concept of the conservation of energy. Maybe eventually they will….ha, hopefully grasp that concept. Evolution of course is affected by energy conservation all of the time, as with the Sea Squirt. So humans now have two essentially different aspects of the nervous spectrum. The original 24/7 unconscious autonomic nervous system which could be what Freud referred to as the id, which has always been our carer since before we were born. The main control of our internal existence, non-consciously looking after us. Plus the now separable conscious somatic dexterous servant with the opposing thumb managing actions in the outside environment, with the advantage of language to assist evolution selection by communication. This conscious part Freud referred to as the ego.
There is a popular misconception here that people say I walked down the road and I was not conscious of walking, or I was not conscious of driving, and the next thing I knew, I was at work. That to me is wrong. They might not remember anything as there was not anything memorable about the journey. They were nevertheless conscious of walking or driving at the time, even though there might have only been a small amount of conscious initiation required to walk or drive down the road, because if there was not any conscious initiation, they would stop walking or fall over or crash. I think that some awareness of ones self in the environment is essential to be classed as being consciously able to initiate somatic action, which maybe assisted by non-conscious autonomic and muscle memory, but whether that action is memorable at all or for any length of time is variable and dependent on many things. Although there is conscious initiation required for somatic action, it is no surprise that it is assisted by the autonomic part of us, because as I originally said that I think we evolved from a creature that did move around non-consciously. It did everything non-consciously, due to its combined non-separable autonomic and somatic nervous system, driven by its physical needs and the environment. It is this physical interacting partnership of these two intrinsically different aspects of the now separable conscious somatic nervous system that we have, with memory of nature awareness that evolved awareness of others and self awareness.
These interactions lead to the conscious autonomy that we experience today. I like to think of the interaction between these two nervous systems by referring to an analogy of the colours black and white. So on one hand you have the black of the non-conscious zombie part and on the other hand you have the white conscious part. Black and white are totally different colours but as we all know they are joined or connected by at least fifty shades of grey. Obviously as your conscious becomes a darker grey toward the black end of the nervous spectrum, then things become more blurred, difficult to understand and non-conscious. This is how I like to think they are connected. They are two separate things like the handle of a bat is different to the part that hit’s the ball, but it is still all part of the same bat.
I think a good way to understand what is going on between these two systems is possibly what Freud referred to as the super ego which includes pain and pleasure. We experience pain as I said earlier by not going to the toilet when you need to or stopping breathing ,you will know in no uncertain terms that you will need to do something about it, and the pleasure you’ll experience having done something about it is also a form of communication that things are going on between your conscious somatic and your non-conscious autonomic. So there should not be any doubt that you have a non-conscious part doing stuff that you are not conscious of. There are far too many to list like reproduction, breathing, circulation, digestion etc. A huge amount of activity going on in the sixty odd squares of the chessboard. Another good indication of this interaction between these two systems is male orgasm, which is consciously, somatically driven towards the eventual goal. Delivered autonomically which or course had been autonomically non-consciously produced, just as the female eggs are autonomically moved around during the menstrual cycle. That is a good indication of the two systems that I’m referring to. Some people experience conflicts and addictions, often driven by a disharmony between these systems, for many reasons all physically related.
We can and do somatically reproduce what is going on autonomically inside of us with music, writing, art, design, invention etc. An example would be a work of art like ‘The Scream’ or the advantages of having a captain of a ship, controlling the ship and crew, which is like our somatic consciousness responding to, interacting or in conflict with the non-conscious autonomic within us.
What is referred to as soul is simply a reflection of our consciousness, (the two or three squares of the chessboard) attempting to understand our massive amount of non-conscious activity,(the sixty odd squares on the chessboard) and how we came to evolve.
I hope this approach will help to resolve that. I’ll be quite happy to try and answer any questions as long as you remember to KIS.
By Richard J R Miles copyright 2015
A reference from Current Zoology called: From Foraging to Autonoetic Consciousness by Thomas T. Hills & Stephen Butterfill 61 (2); 368: 381,2015