A defense of physicalism: Plankton could evolve minds
|April 19, 2017||Posted by News under Animal minds, Mind, Naturalism, News|
From Ari N. Schulman at New Atlantis:
The question then is how mere mechanisms could be in the business of interpreting anything. To say that concepts can reside in physical things in the way we encounter them is only to raise more urgently the question of how concepts can reside in physical things as they actually are — of how matter can be such that certain bits of it come to know about each other. To say that experience inherently bears meaning, that perception already interprets the world to us before we ever reflect on it, is not to find a curious circumstance in which nature and reason are reconciled but to challenge how we find them set apart to begin with.
The PBS NewsHour recently aired a story about marine biologists studying the motion of plankton, a category of microscopic sea creatures that includes protozoa and the larval stages of crabs, urchins, anemones, and fish. Many of these species are spawned in the surf. But if they are to find food and survive, they must be transported away from the shore, often to lower depths. The assumption among biologists has long been that this transit is passive — the word plankton derives from the Greek word for “errant” or “drifter.” Though many can move themselves, the creatures are so small and slow that this motion was thought to be impotent against the power of the currents. It was thought that they could only propagate, like seeds on the wind, through force of numbers, staggered against chance.
An experiment with plankton-like robots showed that the robots moved in the needed directions in relation to currents. So then:
Here are the lowest of lowly creatures, forming, over the ages, a life of joint motion with their world. Who is to say whether what moves them manifests as sensation? Yet somewhere along the path of development, mechanism emerges as feeling. Imagine these creatures evolved eons on, coming awake, standing outside themselves, the vertigo of grasping the ancient contingency that calls them yet from the deepest reaches. How miraculous it would seem to us, to be born to ride the waves. More.
Mmmm. Pretty much what you need to. Physicalism has come to this but it still holds the academy.
Schulman seems to confuse the natural tendency of life forms to make efforts to stay alive with minds or consciousness as such. Physicalism has come to this but it still holds the academy. Note: Schulman seems to confuse the natural tendency of life forms to make efforts to stay alive with minds or consciousness as such. The fact that plankton, like other life forms, struggle to stay in existence says nothing about whether they could evolve into creatures with minds.
By the way, if rocks have minds, why do we never hear from them after all this time?
See also: Aired on BBC: Consciousness no different than our ability to digest
What can we hope to learn about animal minds?
Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?
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