[extropy-chat] Re: Qualia Bet
gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 3 20:13:16 UTC 2006
On Tue, 03 Jan 2006 11:35:25 -0500, Dirk Bruere <dirk.bruere at gmail.com>
> All that is required is new physics.
I was thinking about something I wrote to Acy. He suggested that
observation is an act. I replied something like, "Here I will disagree
with you... perception seems passive. The objects of our awareness are the
actors. They act or our senses."
Traditional empiricists like Locke might agree with my thought, but lately
I've been studying evolutionary epistemology and am struck by the idea
that observation is fundamentally aggressive.
If we trace sensory awareness back through the path of evolution, we find
ourselves in a quagmire when we reach the level of simple microbes. As Stu
and I agreed, they seem to be "aware," but it also true that they have no
obvious sense organs. As I mentioned, one species of paramecia uses a
plant (Chlorella) to 'see'. It literally eats the plant, but then holds it
hostage in its cytoplasm, using the Chlorella's photosynthesis mechanism
as an 'eye' for finding more light and more food. Is it correct to call
this primitive process "vision"? Probably not. It's more a form of
So we can trace cognition back to the simplest organisms, but not
sensation. And this cognition is an *active* process. The normal
paramecium cognates when in searches blindly for food via trial and error
locomotion. Our human eyes and other sense organs are analogous to radar
towers, constantly searching the environment and reporting information
back to 'headquarters'. This information ultimately saves us physical
It is no coincidence that we see only a very narrow band of
electromagnetic radiation. It so happens that things that reflect visual
light are generally impenetrable. Unlike the blind paramecium we don't
have to bounce into walls to know they exist.
Also our use of visual light is ultimately related to light as food. It
may be no coincidence that our eyes use the pigment retinal, and that we
obtain the necessary nutrition through plants. Plants and animals may
share a common ancestor that used beta carotene, a precursor to both
animal retinal and plant chlorophyll.
In our branch of evolution, we lost the ability to eat light but retained
the ability to detect it.
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