The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


Genes do not carry all the information needed to specify the development of an organism. The same genetic program in two cells yields a blood cell and a liver cell. Somehow there must be other "information" available that tells one cell to become a blood cell and the other to become a liver cell. One clue to the solution of this mystery is that, as cells differentiate within the organism, different genes are "expressed" in different cells.

At the end of the 19th century, the German embryologist Hans Driesch realized that a mutilated embryo would still develop into a fully-functioning living organism. He could not find any rational explanation and posited the existence of a “life force”, or “entelechy”. This was a variation on the old theory of “vitalism”: that organic matter is fundamentally different from inorganic matter due to the presence of a vital principle.

 Driesch’s entelechy was a goal-directed (or "teleological") organizing process that would guide morphogenesis, regardless of any other information. Entelechies are organized in hierarchies (so that one doesn't need an entelechy for every single organism that can possibly exist).

Then in the 1930s biologists such as Paul Weiss and Hans Speman (the first one to envision cloning by transferring the nucleus from one cell to another) hypothesized that "morphogenic organizing fields" helped organisms take their shape. The British geneticist Conrad Waddington gave these fields a mathematical meaning with "chreodes", developmental pathways (channels) in his epigenetic landscape: form follows the channels rather than wander in other parts of the landscape.

The German  physicist Walter Elsasser concluded that Physics is not enough to explain life, and proposed the expansion of Physics to “biotonic” laws.

The US mathematician Ralph Abraham (“Vibrations and the Realization of Form”, 1976) introduced a similar notion, that of "macrons": a macron is a collective vibrational pattern (many things that start vibrating together in synchrony). Abraham showed that macrons are ubiquitous in nature (in solids, liquids and gases).

The British physicist Paul Davies also resorted to a sort of life force in order to explain the origin of life, but this “life force” is, in his opinion, a kind of software program. Davies thinks that science must accept “information” as a fundamental quantity of the universe, that can be traded by “informational” forces the same way that matter is traded by physical forces. The natural laws of informational forces must be compatible but not reducible to the laws of physical forces.


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