Abstract submission for Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Hong Kong
June 1, 2009
The philosophy department recently submitted two abstracts for the 15th annual Toward a Science of Consciousness (TSC) conference to be held in June 2009 in Hong Kong. The conference titled “Investigating Inner Experience Brain, Mind, Technology” accepts original papers related to philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, phenomenology, media, technology, games, computer science, and other related fields. For further information regarding the conference visit:
www. asiaconsciousness.org/TSC and http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu
The following is the text of the submitted abstracts:
Title of paper: The contemporary need and the emerging capability for a consciousness of our mind and its intelligent evolution
Mind—a pre big bang energy phenomenon; its implications for Man and Nature as a whole
Can we intelligently-consciously change, upgrade and evolve our mental processes and capabilities for the better, from contradiction to harmony within and outside ourselves?
Yes we can!
Of course not through magic or meditation, but in stages through a conscious mental labour focused internally upon understanding, changing and upgrading our mental processes and programmes, along with a consistent motivation coming from recognizing the need and a sensitivity to do so in order to upgrade our internal and external life holistically. This has not been possible for any living thing before man and even for man it was not possible until now, due to the missing link of a consciousness of the mind itself. The contemporary growing scientific knowledge about the brain and mind, which is enabling us to understand them as objective evolutionary phenomena, and as mechanics, is a major breakthrough in the history of man. So far man has not been able to treat his mind as an objective process which he can inquire into and understand as other phenomena, which he can then change and remake. This emerging ability of man in relation to his mind is developing at a time when there is a dire need for him, due to the nature of the holistic crisis he is confronting, to focus on understanding, changing and upgrading his mind—his motivations, ideas, perceptions, understanding, pleasures, habits etc. Without it we cannot produce a better life, and resolve our growing (inner and outer) complexities and contradictions. Consciousness of the mind and the ability to intelligently upgrade it have a critical role in stepping away from contradictions and moving towards harmony and higher levels of pleasure, and producing a new civilizational change and another renaissance.
As a first step this attempt requires the recognition of mental processes as objective phenomena. However, the issue that is shrouding the understanding of mental processes is the fact that they cannot be completely explained in terms of the brain and neuronal processes. We do not accept the hard-core approach that mental processes are merely neurological processes, nor the approach that treats the mind as an epiphenomenon having no material explanation. We propose that mental processes have to be in terms of energy processes that are not tangible to existing tools in physics and the brain and neurosciences, but which have a connection and an interface with the biological and neurological processes. We believe it is critical to zero/narrow in on this issue because it is acting as a block in the way of a usable understanding of the mind.
We strongly propose that mental processes, particularly complex ones in higher animals and human beings must be structured and functioning in terms of the most fundamental, rarified energy forms belonging to the pre big bang phase of Nature/Universe—akin to neutrinos. We suggest that quantum processes taking place in microtubules of neurons have the capability of either producing or trapping a variety of such energy forms and organizing them into structures capable of performing mental functions. However, as opposed to many theories of quantum-brain/mind we present a holistic philosophical cum scientific understanding of the formation, functioning and nature of mental processes. Simply being able to explain them as quantum processes does not represent the entire complex multilayered reality about them. How the brain/neurons have evolved to produce them as such, how and at what levels are the bio-neuronal and genetic processes involved in their formation, functioning and change are important questions that we address.
We propose that even in their origins, mental processes must have emerged as a structure of weak quantum energy formations/mechanisms; without involving them the cellular processes could neither survive as stable structures, nor emerge as evolving ‘living’ phenomena. Herein we combine the rationale for the origins of the mind, and the energy forms in which it must have emerged through various propositions such as: the dynamic internal instability in living molecules and their need to reach a stable state driving them to pull in weak energy components from the environment; the journey of cells from a chemical capability for distinguishing between useful and harmful environment as the first cognitive function to employing weak energy mechanisms for cognition released through violent interactions between light and molecules of life. Building up from here we present an ‘organic-unified’ understanding of how biological forms, genetic programmes, brain-neuronal processes and mental processes evolve to more complex levels through a continuous interactive loop between them and the environment up to the present stage of the human brain/mind, which begins employing larger number of more rarified quantum energy forms, especially after language.
The understanding of our mental processes as structures of pre big bang quantum energy does two things. At one level it opens up the barriers coming from viewing mental processes mainly as biological-neuronal processes; and enables us to conceive developing mental tools composed of these fundamental energy forms to intelligently understand, interact with and intervene in our unconsciously formed mental programmes/processes, mental genes and neuronal connections. At another level it opens up a whole new picture of Nature as whole and ourselves as a part of it; we can see the macro evolutionary journey of Nature as a whole from pre big bang till the human mind essentially as a transition from unconscious energy to conscious energy and from contradiction to higher levels of harmony; which further gives us a macro perspective for our evolution.
Title of paper: Revisiting the relationship between mind and genes as a first step towards understanding the origins of the contemporary human mind, its current functioning and problems
This paper aims to explore in detail how the genetic process is responsible for the formation and functioning of the contemporary human mind and the complex and elaborate problems it has created both within and outside of itself. In today’s time an individual’s intellectual growth, understanding, ideas and expanse of life have reached a level where they are not being able to fit within the existing framework of his genetic mental software and programme. And at the same time his genetically circumscribed and dominated mental processes are not being able to cope with the overall complexity of human life at all levels. This situation has created a kind of clash in the deepest layers of an individual’s mind between his genetically circumscribed mental processes, which are producing more and more conflicts and contradictions, and his growing understanding, intellect and corresponding sensitivities which have gone beyond the parameters of the genetic programmes and have the potential in them to achieve resolution of problems and move towards harmony and new qualities of pleasure and happiness. The individual in our time is living out the consequences and experiences of the various forms/layers of this fundamental clash within his mind.
The conclusions of our inquiry stated below are not proposing any quick fix formula or a short-term temporary solution for contemporary human problems but only trying to initiate the process of clearing the ground for man to begin the process of working for stable, long-term and rational solutions to them. The core issue of man is that his existing mind is essentially an unconsciously formed gene-based mental management system. At present the mental autonomy he experiences is more of an illusion than reality because the formation and functioning of his mind is still largely controlled and dominated by a deep rooted two-way connection between his genes and mental processes of which he is unaware.
A gene, in addition to the protein template, also contains a non-biological mental template (code or outline) made of pre-atomic, pre-big bang quantum energy forms, which programmes the brain cells to produce mental processes. There seem to be two main varieties of mental templates or mental genes (as they will be referred to in this paper) in human beings with numerous specific sub-types in each variety. One, which contain the template for lower order mental functions (habits, temperament, basic emotional positions, motivations and agendas, and self-centered intelligence) which we share with animals and other living things. The other which do not contain the template for a specific function but only the template for a higher order mental capability (say of complex reasoning and intellectual processing and developed sensitivities) unique to human beings and which is concretized through a highly developed and on-going learning process. The existing gene-based mind of man is an evolved product of the dynamic and interconnected functioning of all the varieties and sub-varieties of mental genes and brain processes, in a complex interaction with the environment. And in our view our mental processes and their experiences have a communication process in place with our mental genes (currently at the nonverbal and unaware level) and also the capability to modify them. In fact this communication process is probably the mechanics of mental evolution in general in living things.
Apart from the proposed involvement of non-biological processes in the formation and functioning of mental processes we are also speculating their involvement, in tandem with the biological processes, in the genetic functioning related to the body. To give a few examples, the specialized design of biological organs contained in the gene could be existing in terms of a non-biological process, similarly the process of genetic mutations, signaling processes of non-coding RNA which regulate protein synthesis and epigenetic inheritance systems in cells could also be involving these processes. In fact it was probably this non-biological process which combined with the complex pre-gene organic molecule to give birth to the gene itself as a stable process which then went on to make the initial stable cellular structures in evolution.
Hitherto the focus of contemporary biological and neurobiological Sciences and Genetics has been on the biological functioning of genes for understandable reasons but today in addition to the work on biological functioning, non-biological functioning needs to become the object of intellectual focus so that our minds and their problems can become more tangible and clear for us. The objective is clearly to replace the existing unintelligent mental software and programme in our mental genes, with a new intelligent software not controlled by the genes but by our advanced intellectual and emotional processes, which will then determine the formation and functioning of our mental processes.