correspondentRichard J R Miles has kindly provided the text of a short speech he prepared for a CFA: AISB workshop on the emergence of consciousness

Emergence of consciousness and the Soul.             

My Hypothesis.                                           

Trees and flowers do not need to evolve a brain, everything they require is taken care of by their environment. The sea squirt digests its brain when no longer required, which shows the economics of nature. Bodies evolve without brains, not vice-versa.

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 hope to explain with my hypothesis. Looking at the brain without considering the body is like trying to understand an electronic control unit without knowing what it is connected to.

Some creatures do not need much of a brain to survive in their environment, as they are moved around by the tide, wind, light or dark. The environment aids their survival. Their brain being operated by their body senses send the required action.

Some creatures needed to evolve a more complex brain for the 3 F’s, but this came at a cost. A large brain needs more fuel to run and maintain. A way to conserve energy was evolved, so part of the brain and body could be used when necessary, and relaxed when not. This proved to be more advantageous for their environmental survival. More beneficial than a less capable brain running 24/7. This improvement was achieved by a natural division of the nervous system in the body and brain. These are the autonomic and somatic nervous systems. It is the interaction between these two nervous systems which form the basis of my hypothesis, which combined with our dexterity has allowed us to evolve as we are.

Obviously I did not discover these two nervous systems, but I hope to show how their two feedback loops cause physical duality interaction of the body and brain, essentially the mind.

The autonomic nervous system is unconscious, to and from both the body and brain, which functions 24/7 and is the main control of our internal existence, a large part of our body and brain keeping us alive, as it has done since before we were born.

The somatic nervous system is the conscious to and from both the body and brain, and is the means of controlling and managing actions in the outside world to keep us alive.

The unconscious autonomic nervous system is indirectly connected, interacts, affects and effects the conscious somatic nervous system and vice-versa. Our conscious manages the somatic action in the environment and decides to act or not, assisted by, and sometimes urged by, the unconscious autonomic nervous system.  It is this dual interaction of essentially different parts of the nervous spectrum that complement each other making a formidable partnership that is the basis of my hypothesis and is how we are.

Our soul is simply our conscious inability to understand our unconscious activity.

 

 

5 Comments

  1. 1. Troy says:

    I wonder if Peter Lynds suggestion that “some form of neuronal induced nonconscious cognitive process within the brain to facilitate a form of temporal interplay between nonconscious cognitive data streams” might actually be the same interplay that Miles suspects to occur between autonomic and somatic nervous systems. He too offers consciousness as an “emergent property of neuronal activity” in his paper posted here…

    http://cogprints.org/3125/

  2. 2. Jorge says:

    This part

    “Our soul is simply our conscious inability to understand our unconscious activity.”

    sounds a lot like Bakker’s Blind Brain Theory in some respects.

  3. 3. Peter says:

    Yes, similar in that it’s the limitations rather than the abilities that are important – but some differences also.

  4. 4. Vicente says:

    Hi Richard, it is a nice portion of food for thought.

    A few minor comments in case you find them useful:

    In the text, autonomous nervous system, autonomic nervous system and conscious brain, seem to me to be used in a slightly heterodox fashion. Probably these concepts would require some context specific definitions in the full article…

    Also, some ideas like the need to have better organs don’t get very well along with the stochastic nature of evolution…. all creatures need better bodies to cope with life, but it doesn’t mean that there is a systematic process to provide them.

    Regarding the inabilities, I find it a more suitable topic for a psychological considerations, rather than for a sheer consciousness study.

  5. 5. Han says:

    “Some creatures do not need much of a brain to survive in their environment, as they are moved around by the tide, wind, light or dark. The environment aids their survival. Their brain being operated by their body senses send the required action.”

    This seems like an oversimplification, no? There is much that plants do that requires active, not passive processes. And there is much that higher primates do that is aided by the environment. “Autonomous” and “automatic” are not necessarily equivalent concepts.

    Here is a review paper on plant intelligence: http://aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/92/1/1.full.pdf+html

    And even a TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/stefano_mancuso_the_roots_of_plant_intelligence.html

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