We have received a large number of responses in the last few days. It was not possible for us to post many excellent responses from prominent scientists all over the world. However we are posting the emails in a series of digests with some brief comments. We look forward to your continuing enthusiastic and thoughtful responses.
Refuting Darwinism is like covering Sunlight by your palm. A scientific discovery or invention cannot be driven by a priori intention of underplaying a discovery that has been well founded because the arguments of the latter are compatible to the faith or belief systems of the investigators. What motives do you have to refute Darwinism? What is a soul made of? Where does it come from? What forces do operate that soul? Is rebirth and reincarnation also proven by you? Or is it your next research paper to be published in a journal that is convenient to your ides?
Comments: The paper ‘Life and Consciousness – The Vedantic view’ lists scientific evidences that critique Darwinian idea. The soul is not a thing but can be conceived as a potential, or a thinking substance. Hegel explained that consciousness awakens in the soul. Aristotle following in the line of previous thinkers like Anaxagorous explained that soul was the first principle of all living organisms. He gave a method to deduce soul from empirical observations. In Vedanta soul has been defined as a part and parcel of the Absolute Original Organic Whole called Brahman or Spirit. Absolute is Sentient. The soul is superior energy compared to matter. Therefore life is not a result of material combinations. Consciousness is the externalization of soul. The soul is operated by its desire although it is finite, and is therefore subject to be captured by the material energy or the lower prakriti. Therefore the consciousness of the soul is affected by the kind of associations which it desires to have.
Dear Dr. Bhakti Niskama Shanta,
I read your article “Life and consciousness – The Ved?ntic view”. It is indeed very interesting.
 I agree with you that materialism-based science (our ancient C?rv?ka/Lok?yata view) cannot explain our subjective experiences. This is because it is not possible to create experiences from non-experiential matter. In materialism, matter is the fundamental and mind arises somehow. This has well known serious explanatory gap problem of materialism; most of us know that. You have done good job in providing critique on materialism.
 Your Ved?ntic view is “the origin of everything material and nonmaterial is sentient and absolute (unconditioned)”. In idealism, mind is the fundamental and matter-in-itself arises somehow. This idealism metaphysics includes singular/Advaita, ‘Organic Whole’ /‘primeval personal Absolute’/?di-Puru?a, and/or plurality of individuals. However, this idealism-based Ved?ntic view also has a serious problem. This problem is the reverse of materialism’s problem. In other words, it is unclear how to congeal matter-in-itself (not the appearance of matter) from non-material experiences (experimental aspect of consciousness).
 S??khya (interactive substance dualism: ISD) based Ved?ntic view has many problems; most serious is the association problem: how to associate a specific experience (such as redness) with correlated neurons (such as red-green neurons) or related neural-network. In ISD (S??khya), mind and matter both are fundamental but they can interact.
 The least problematic view is Vi?i???dvaita/‘Kashmir Shaivism’-based Ved?ntic view. I have extended it to the five-component extended Dual-Aspect Monism (eDAM: Dvi-Pak?a Advaita) framework (Vimal, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015a, 2015b), which is briefly summarized in (Vimal & Bhardwaj, 2015). In the eDAM, mind and matter are the inseparable aspects of the same entity-state. You may like to look at short Sections 2.1 and 2.2 of (Vimal & Bhardwaj, 2015)
The arguments you provide in your article can be better explained via the eDAM framework. Tononi’s problematic materialistic and/or somewhat panpsychism-based IIT is re-interpreted in the eDAM framework in (Vimal, 2015c). In the eDAM:
(i) Materialism’s matter has dominant physical aspect and inseparable latent (potential form) mental/qualitative aspect,
(ii) Idealism’s mind has dominant mental aspect and inseparable latent (potential) physical aspect, and
(iii) ISD’s mind and matter are inseparable aspects of the same entity-state.
In other words, the unmanifested dual-aspect state of the primal entity (Brahman) has both aspects latent (in potential form). Its physical aspect started manifesting first after Big-Bang to evolve non-living systems (in over 13 billion years). Then its mental aspect started manifesting about 540 MYA. Thus, living system co-evolved and dependently co-arose (N?g?rjuna & Garfield, 1995; Vimal, 2009).
Please let me know your comments.
R?m Lakhan P?ndey Vimal, M.S., Ph.D.
Comments: Both Idealism and Realism are reductionistic concepts. Both try to reduce the reality to either mind or the external world respectively. The Vedantic idea (achintya-bheda-abheda-vada) is closer to the Hegelian conception that the Reality is Rational. It may be termed as Ideal Realism or Real Idealism. The in-itself of matter is a dependent being. It is dependent on the Being-in-itself of the Absolute. Only the Absolute is by itself and for itself or has a supremely independent Being in itself. Therefore Absolute is One and is Personal and is the Original non-dual Substance. At the same time it negates the being in itself of the many onto itself. But this negation does not mean annihilation, but it means everything exists or has a being for the satisfaction of the Absolute. Vedantic concept is not equal to idealism. The visista-advaita view is one of the important viewpoints in Vedanta. Big-Bang does not explain anything about the origin of life. Although there is a beginning of the universe and time in Vedantic view, the cause of this beginning is Sentient. Therefore life is not created by evolution of the universe. But life in the universe always came from pre-existing life.
Need is there to distinguish between intelligence (as a product of mind) and consciousness. It is under the presence of consciousness that mind (and brain) activates and produces intelligence and it is the consciousness which is the ultimate perceiver of mental activities. Similarly, at macro level, it is the ubiquitous consciousness which produces, activates and perceives matter and energy.
Pure material scientists propose the creation of both consciousness and intelligence by neuronal activities in brain. Spiritual Vedantic Scientists propose the existence of an ubiquitous consciousness which at micro level manifest in highest degree in human beings and in reducing degrees in other organism. But such scientists also believe in creation of mind (intelligence) thru neuronal activity in brain. Both are wrong in this regard. Within human’s physical body, lies another body called Astral body (Suukshma Sharir or Linga Sharir) primary part of which is located in human brain. Astral body is composed of matter and energy (Tanmatras) about which modern scientists are not aware. Astral Body is composed of elements Mana, Buddhi, 10 senses and 5 Tanmatras. Apart from Astral body, there exist another body called Causal ( Kaaran Sharir) body in between astral body and consciousness. Causal body is primarily composed of two elements Chitta and Ahmkaara.
Mental activity ( intelligence) originates at astral level of Mana and Buddhi and terminates and manifest at brain level. Observed intelligence (mental function) is due to conjunction of Mana and Buddhi (at astral bodily level) and brain at physical level. At the causal level at Chitta, seed (Samskaar) of mental activity is stored and Ahmkaar provides sense of “Ahmata” ) I-ness to bodily consciousness ( Jeevatma). All the three bodies viz Causal ( Kaarana), Astral ( Suukshma) and Physical ( Sthuula) activate due to signal from bodily consciousness and it is the consciousness which perceives the working of these three bodies. In view of above, apart from consciousness, there is need to properly appreciate the role and significance of astral and causal body while studying the mental activity and intelligence). Another aspect which have not been adequately highlighted. We are working on the hypothesis that life does exist at planet earth only. With more than 200 billions stars in Milky way galaxy and more than 100 billion galaxies in observable universe only, there is quite high probability that life might be existing at not one but many other places in universe. There is all the probability that consciousness might be manifesting in degrees much higher, than we human being on this planet, in life at some places in some corners of universe. In view of this, by merely observing the life pattern as available on this planet, we can’t generalize the evolution of life thru Darwinism or otherwise. Only He (ubiquitous consciousness) may know why and how He created diverse organism thru which bodily consciousness ( Jeevatma) undergoes spiritual evolution
Comments: Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhar Maharaja explained that mind is the impulse which acts through the senses by which the soul comes to the conception of the external world. The soul becomes conscious of matter through the medium of the mind. Matter is produced from the subjective consciousness of the soul. The atman or the soul is the spiritual conception. The soul comes to the conception of the external world by a particular process. Mind is a thing that contains apathy and sympathy for the external world. We have to trace within us what that thing is. It is within us, and one has to enter into his own self and try to have some personal experience of what the mind is. Then by internal analysis one can try to come directly in touch with the faculty of judgment, reason, intelligence, by asking, “What is intelligence? Where is it within me?” We should try to find what is the source of the mind and intelligence? Thus in the Vedantic view there is some difference between mind and intelligence, although both arise out of the soul when the field of consciousness comes in contact with the material energy (external energy of the absolute – maha-maya).
I thank you about your nice e-mail, but my subject is Geophysics (with seismology branch). Let me know if are there any conference in your department or your college related my branch. with the best wishes,
Dr. Mohammad Kavei,
Member of faculty in Hormozgan University, Bandar Abbas, Iran.
Comments: Our institute’s name is Sri Chaitantya Saraswat Institute and we are working under Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, PhD, the Serving Director of the Bhakti Vedanta Institute, Princeton, NJ, USA. We are holding ‘Science and Scientist’ annual conference services and the details can be found at: www.scsiscs.org/conference
Good analysis and coverage.
Dear Colleagues/ Friends
The paper below is an important contribution and the arguments for intrinsic purpose as opposed to extrinsic purpose are compelling. I have a couple of questions/ comments:
1. Why does the author(s) restrict the argument to the level of a bacterial cell? The isha upanishad that is quoted actually invokes atoms i.e. what we assume to be atoms in translation of the word ”anu”. It could also mean the smallest particle that can be conceptualized. eg.neutrino and so on.
2. Why does sentience have to be graded according to the physical image? It is logically inconsistent to argue that the bacterial cell is less sentient compared to human sentience. It can just mean that our ability to ”measure” what constitutes sentience is flawed.
For me it is logically more compelling to apply the above arguments to the whole system rather than to its parts (Considering the Universe as the system). Once we apply such arguments to the whole system many of the logical flaws fade away. Pl. allow me to state an example: In the above arguments it is held that the human being is a separate entity and the bacterium is a separate entity and subsequently we are trying to apply the derived laws on them. This actually is akin to stating that some parts of a human body are sentient while other parts are not! On the other hand, there are thousands of bacteria in the human body and we are symbiotically dependent on them. Even the kind and variety of gut bacteria have been shown to affect our moods (can we think of it as sentience) and also physical health. The latter results have led to the proposal of forward thinking therapeutic approaches. best wishes
Dr. R. Ravishankar, Professor (ACSIR) & Senior Principal Scientist
Prof. G.N. Ramachandran Structural Biology lab, Molecular & Structural Biology Division, CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow -226031 (U.P), INDIA
Comments: The Vedantic teachings have to be learned under a qualified teacher. In Vedanta the source of everything is the Absolute sentient. But there are different kinds of energies. The material energy is called achit (non-congizant or insentient). The achit or the material energy is acting under the influence of the three material modes (satva, rajas and tamas). But the living energy is called chit (Cognizant or sentient potency). The Chit potency (cognizant or the living energy) is characterized by free will and desire. Therefore in the Vedantic view there is a difference between the living energy and matter. Life can never be produced from matter. anu does not always mean atom. anu means part and parcel. E.g. Upanishad explains God as brihat chetana or Supreme Consciousness and the living entity as anu-chetana or minute consciousness.
The body of the living entity which you are calling the physical image actually violates the laws of physics and chemistry. The body has to be explained from an organic conception. It is the inseparable unity of mind/body. Therefore according to the developed stage of consciousness there are differences in the abilities of the organisms. E.g. we as humans read books. But dogs cannot do so. Therefore the knowledge gaining capacities differ with respect to the form of the living organisms.
It is true that living organisms are inseparable from each other. The living entities and the environment are all dependent on each other as an organic network. Such ideas are also gaining in importance in modern biology. The environment is also an important aspect of the living organism. However, the living organisms have their individuality as well as knowing capacities, which the insentient environment however lacks. Uexkull explained that the living organisms have their internal world (umwelt) by which it continually interprets the external world. This very idea is the basis of Semiosis, which conceives that the difference between life and non-life is semiosis.
Dear Dr. Sankhyan,
Thank you for your interesting comments. When Darwin lived nothing was known about molecular biology and the story in Genesis while a lovely allegory was obviously a creation myth just as every culture has always had creation myths. So the idea of his, shared by his colleague Wallace, of rare random mutations that have a natural selection advantage had obvious merit and still does. In industrial London black moths had an obvious survival advantage over white moths for example. The problem arises when this one relatively small aspect of the evolutionary process gets overblown into the sole determinant of evolution. In the last decade or so the Epigenetic Revolution is changing the picture dramatically. Complex patterns of methyl and acetyl groups attached to DNA and the hIstone spools it is coiled around plus a host of small RNA factors alter gene expression in such a way that Behavioral tendencies are heritable over generations. So it is not longer a scientific fact that evolution is random. There are only about 20,000 genes that code for proteins yet there are a couple hundred thousand proteins in the human body in incredibly complex recursive arrangements that are also essential to catalyze their own chemical synthesis. So it is closed archetypal energy patterns that orchestrate the chemical synthesis in Cells as they relate to Organs according to the needs of the Host human being. It is these immensely complex non physical energy patterns that have taken three or four billion years to evolve operating behind the chemistry of the biosphere and the universe at large. The whole universe is an ever evolving process.
The simplest living cell is still immensely complex and there is no credible series of chemical accidents that could ever produce it. The most probable answer was provided by Svante Arrhenius in 1903 and taken up by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. Tiny bacterial and yeast spores are small enough to ride on the radiation pressure of starlight and there is evidence that they can survive the rigors of interstellar space. The theory is that there is an interstellar gene gene pool and that these spores are carried by comets into the inner solar systems where they can have a soft landing on planets conducive to organic life. The gene pool gets replenished by asteroid impact ejecta during the early life of planets and also by high altitude diffusion processes. There is also evidence that old heavy stars in galaxies are drawn back into black hole centers in galaxies and periodically re-ejected as primary hydrogen feed stock for new generations of stars. Some starburst galaxies are creating new stars at a rate sufficient to replace their entire stellar population in a few hundred million years or less, so it is must be a cyclical period process. The point is that life and solar systems are eternally regenerated and it is not necessary to postulate a beginning to space and time. There is much more on my website at Gravity, Quantum Relativity & System 3.
I hope this helps to clarify some of your concerns. I fully acknowledge Darwin’s contribution to science as far as it goes.
Comments: Non-Darwinian alterations like transduction, natural-transformation, horizontal (lateral) DNA transfer, fused genomes (symbiogenesis) and so on are the example of a few cases, where genome alteration did not happen by gradual change and natural selection. Both Darwinian (gradual changes and ‘parent-to-progeny hereditary only’) and non-Darwinian alterations (rapid changes and transfer of genetic material among non-mating species) do occur frequently in nature, but they always produce only minor changes within species (microevolution). We cannot find a single case in the scientific literature where either Darwinian or non-Darwinian alterations successfully led to the appearance of novelty (macroevolution). Kuhn explained this in his article ‘Dissecting Darwinism’ (J. A. Kuhn, ‘Dissecting Darwinism’, Proc Bayl Univ Med Cent 25 (2012), 41–47):
‘In all fairness, there is convincing evidence, that is widely acknowledged, that random mutation and natural adaptation (Darwinian evolution) does occur within species, leading to minor changes in areas such as beak size, skin pigmentation, or antibiotic resistance. Some of these changes involve a simple biologic survival advantage for a population, without a mutation in DNA. Others might be influenced by a single deletion or insertion within the DNA strand. However, the modern evolution data do not convincingly support a transition from a fish to an amphibian, which would require a massive amount of new enzymes, protein systems, organ systems, chromosomes, and formation of new strands of specifically coding DNA. Even with thousands of billions of generations, experience shows that new complex biological features that require multiple mutations to confer a benefit do not arise by natural selection and random mutation. New genes are difficult to evolve. The bacteria do not form into other species.’
Not sure how this conversation came to me, but will comment… A singular definition of “life” makes no sense to me because it ignores that the word takes on different meanings according to an individual’s attitude and practice, for instance, if one is viewing the world with a scientific, spiritual, or poetic attitude (e.g., as described in my book The Scientific Attitude).
Fred Grinnell, Ph.D.
Robert McLemore Professor of Medical Science.
Department of Cell Biology
Ethics in Science and Medicine Program
UT Southwestern Med Ctr, Dallas, TX
Comments: The Vedantic definition of life is that wherever there is life there is consciousness and wherever there is consciousness there must be life. Hegel explained that living organisms are defined by the following three qualities. (1) Reciprocal relations between part and whole, i.e. all members are reciprocally momentary means as well as momentary ends. This is the principle of self-preservation, (2) the system of life needs assimilation from environment by which it maintains, develops and objectifies itself, and (3) reproduction, i.e. all organisms must also pursue self-preservation by reproduction by producing itself as another individual of the same species. Organism is organized to preserve itself through the activities of assimilation and reproduction. Hegel shows that this results in natural teleology – as a system of activities which is actualized into a system of organs through which those activities proceed. Apart from this Hegel also had an original contribution whereby he has shown by the dialectical logic that the concept of consciousness and infinity were similar. In this sense the concept of consciousness is quite different from that of space and matter.
Since my School days, I have never agreed with Evolution Theory and Monkey to Man route. Cockroaches are on this earth for 70 million years and Ants probably over 100 million years. They have not evolved into something different. They have stayed as Cockroaches and Ants. We see monkeys today and human beings also. Where are the intermediate products when both ends of this chain (!) are surviving today?
Adaptation to new environment within reasonable limit, for survival is acceptable. There is definitely a “God’s particle” in creating human beings.
Dr S D Limaye, Pune , INDIA
Comments: The God’s particle may not be a very good term on logical grounds. The idea of particle stresses the distinctive nature of the soul. But the soul also has an inseparable and dependent identity with God as a dependent being. Therefore the Vedantic terminology atman is the most appropriate term for soul.
I have very limited knowledge in this specific field of origin of life. However, I feel that there are three things which move this universe, matter, energy and space. For unit of life i.e. a living cell, scientists have been able to assemble the chemicals i.e. matter in right proportion, but there still remains the problem of flow of energy with respect to interstitial space. On our planet earth the energy flow is connected with oxygen (breathing) and that’s the difference between life and death. After death flow of energy stops even though matter remains. Matter (body; shareer) is only a platform on which the energy (Spirit; Atma) flows. The day this problem of flow of energy with respect to space over matter is solved, secret of life shall be unveiled. The first living cell would have been formed when the right amount of matter must have come in contact with right amount of energy in the right volume of space.
With best wishes,
Comments: These speculations about the origin of life have not been substantiated. We should study the nature of consciousness for explaining living organisms. The law of conservation of energy (one energy transform into another) cannot explain the origin of consciousness because it is not a result of material energy.
What is life can be determined quite concisely, but the answer took decades to formulate and may be difficult to understand for some. Darwinism assumptions are proven wrong simply by examining the necessary condition for evolution to occur.
Thank you for recommending Robert Rosen’s LIFE ITSELF. The scholarly presentation was also, to my unscientific mind, also prohibitive, somewhat like my futile effort in trying to fully understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I would like to read a short synopsis of Dr. Rosen’s conclusions re What Is Life? I accept the fact that life is an ineffable gift from our Creator, as are love, consciousness, our minds, our souls, our creativity, our lust for music and art, and our wonderful sense of beauty, the source of which, evolutionists have great difficulty explaining. These are the aspects of life I am interested in, as well as the miracles embodied in us, such as the ability to communicate with fellow human beings, and to see and hear, to experience pleasure in so may ways, just to name a few. I am convinced that some questions will never be answered, such as where the energy causing the Big Bang came from, where did our Creator come from, does the universe go on forever, how can something come from nothing (before the Big Bang) what in our brains actually does the seeing and the hearing, and so on…
My ebook A HEARTFELT THANK YOU TO MY INTELLIGENT DESIGNER available at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing store ($2.99) is partly my payback for being given the wonderful Gift of Life. In it I express my feeling that: God is the architect; evolution is the contractor.
Comments: The intelligent designer argument has a problem in that it makes the design principle of the universe as well as living organism external to the being of the living organism. The Vedantic idea is therefore at variance with the ID argument.
In 1944 Irwin Schrodinger wrote in “What is Life” that life could not be explained by quantum and Newtonian mechanics. Further he said that in studying life we would find new laws of physics which would recognize that, “Living matter evades the decay to equilibrium.” This challenge to find the “new physics” was accepted by Ilya Prigogine who in 1947 and the early 50′s and finally in 1967 defined non-equilibrium thermodynamics and the nature of dissipative structures. At last life had a fundamental physics which could explain the causal basis of the processes of biology. But it is a young science that has several off shoots based on the nature of information transfer and energetic transfer processes in sensory Ecology, chronobiology, systems biology, and of course, biothemodynamics. (Glaser 2013) A good source for various applications in Biotic Systems is Aoki’s “Entropy Principle for the Development of Complex Biotic Systems”(2012)
The grounding of biological processes in lawful physics combined with Darwinian evolution makes natural processes and physicalism the philosophical basis of life. We now can address the great questions of philosophy with a physics which gives us causal processes for all the things of wonder with which we amaze and delight ourselves. I believe humanity can begin to find we have much in common with the earth and each other through knowledge. Continue Amazement,
William M. Altenburg
Director of Research, Smarts Hill Laboratories
Comments: How do you deduce the origin of consciousness from lawful physics? The ant’s path on a graph sheet can’t be predicted from physics. Similarly free will and several problems like internal teleology are a problem for your idea.
Quantum coherence is a formal representation of the fact that we each, as observers, interact with one single system, our own personal “environment” or “world.” This system is “quantum coherent” because its state is not separable: there are no boundaries within it that demarcate physically distinct systems that have their own physically well-defined states. It is, instead, one entity in one “entangled” (= not separable, by definition) physical state.
We as observers impose boundaries on this boundary-less system. This is just how our minds work. We impose macroscopic boundaries around ordinary objects like cars and houses and other people, mesoscopic boundaries around biological cells, microtubules and other molecules, microscopic boundaries around atoms and electrons. We have to do this to think and talk about them. We can observe the emergence of these boundaries in the cognition of infants. But all of these boundaries are physically meaningless. The physics (the strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational interactions) does not care about these boundaries at all. The fundamental interactions don’t even see them (or at least, if they do then *all* of our current physics is wrong, and we have to start over from scratch with a completely different mathematical formalism).
So yes to Eddington and yes to Whitehead. All we have are observational outcomes. Numbers. These numbers appear to refer to separate, bounded objects that are persistent through time. That is how our minds work. In fact they refer to our personal “environments,” the single, non-separable systems with which each of us, individually, interacts. Cheers,
Comments: How does Quantum Physics deduce consciousness? Do you think consciousness can be modeled based upon the quantum state wave functions? There is no actual evidence to show that life is a certain state of matter.
Life: quantum coherence in microtubules
With post-quantum back-reaction.
Comments: We would like to ask you, can consciousness be represented by the wave functions. In one of your talks on the youtube, you argue that the wave function is inherently mental. But if that is so some questions arise. According to Vedanta material energy is unconscious, consciousness is a field and the soul is knower of the field of consciousness. So when the field of consciousness comes under the influence of material energy (which is active under the three modes of material nature), intelligence, mind and ego arise. When consciousness comes to experience matter it must pass through first a hazy phase and that is called cidabhasa. Therefore it is expressed as particular attitudes of mind as well as dhriti (associations or convictions) etc. Thus consciousness is not a result of the material energy but can be transformed by it. Moreover, consciousness follows the logic of the organic whole. The variegated aspects of consciousness are not sum over parts or analytic derivatives. Thus how much can the quantum wave functions which are the basis for formulating the quantum theory represent consciousness or deduce it even after including the need for back-reactions, which indeed must lead the theory to a series of back reactions.
Life itself is the culmination of the chemical action, argues some scientists. May be. What about the work of the mind? And is it a coincidence that some brains are much superior to others? Are we sure of the hereditary factors? Can such things be created artificially? Instead of hypothesis, we need clear facts
It just occurred to me – what i just wrote in my halting, awkward language is really just an attempt to say what Sri Aurobindo has said in an infinitely better way. Here’s what I meant (this is from “Letters on Yoga” – it was a response to a letter from Sri Krishna Prem that was sent to Sri Aurobindo by his classical music/vocalist disciple, Dilip Kumar Roy. Prem predicted (this was in the 1930s – Prem had been something of a “science prodigy” as a child growing up in England prior to World War I) that as long as scientists confined their observations to sense data which was then subjected to the analysis of the logical intellect (leavened by whatever minimal intuition shone through) that science would remain utterly stuck and never get to “Reality.”
Prem specifically said that scientists remain on the “horizontal” plane of phenomenal process, and hardly even the full range of that but only the most superficial, sensory/physical data, hardly even reaching into the subtler levels of Reality. Prem concluded by saying that one simply becomes like the snake chasing its tail, as long as one remains on the plane of effect. One can only get to true causation by taking what he metaphorically referred to a “90 degree turn” into the depths (and/or heights!) of Divine Reality. Sri Aurobindo responded:(the bold, italicized emphasis is mine – to “enter into the consciousness of the Magician” is the beginning of true Knowledge and hence, true Science – by the way, you can find this on the net just by searching “Sri Aurobindo + bagatelle” – kind of sums it all up:>)))
A distinction, the distinction very keenly made here, between the plane of phenomenal process, of externalized Prakriti, and the plane of Divine Reality ranks among the first words of the inner wisdom. The turn given to it in these pages is not merely an ingenious explanation; it expresses very soundly one of the clear certainties you meet when you step across the border and look at the outer world from the standing-ground of the inner spiritual experience. The more you go inward or upward, the more the view of things changes and the outer knowledge Science organizes takes its real and very limited place. Science, like most mental and external knowledge, gives you only truth of process. I would add that it cannot give you even the whole truth of process; for you seize some of the ponderables, but miss the all-important imponderables; you get, hardly even the how, but the conditions under which things happen in Nature. After all the triumphs and marvels of Science the explaining principle, the rationale, the significance of the whole is left as dark, as mysterious and even more mysterious than ever. The scheme it has built up of the evolution not only of this rich and vast and variegated material world, but of life and consciousness and mind and their workings out of a brute mass of electrons, identical and varied only in arrangement and number, is an irrational magic more baffling than any the most mystic imagination could conceive. Science in the end lands us in a paradox effectuated, an organised and rigidly determined accident, an impossibility that has somehow happened,– it has shown us a new, a material Maya, agha?ana-gha?ana-pa??yas?, very clever at bringing about the impossible, a miracle that cannot logically be and yet somehow is there actual, irresistibly organised, but still irrational and inexplicable. And this is evidently because Science has missed something essential; it has seen and scrutinised what has happened and in a way how it has happened, but it has shut its eyes to something that made this impossible possible, something it is there to express. There is no fundamental significance in things if you miss the Divine Reality; for you remain embedded in a huge surface crust of manageable and utilisable appearance. It is the magic of the Magician you are trying to analyse, but only when you enter into the consciousness of the Magician himself can you begin to experience the true origination, significance and circles of the Lila. I say “begin” because the Divine Reality is not so simple that at the first touch you can know all of it or put it into a single formula; it is the Infinite and opens before you an infinite knowledge to which all Science put together is a bagatelle. But still you do touch the essential, the eternal behind things and in the light of That all begins to be profoundly luminous, intimately intelligible.
Life can be defined as a “system of information processing that is self-aware”. Cell or a corpse is dead when a system of information processing stopped working (no exchange of information between cells, no memory, no imagination, no perception etc.) This definition is broad enough to apply to plants, cell cultures, living organisms, ecosystems and the entire Universe.
Comments: Self-awareness is definitely unique to life.
At least part of the problem is the fact that evolutionary biology, as it is taught in many schools, colleges and even universities, is far too simplistic. Natural selection, as pioneered by Darwin, remains at the very heart of it. But other key mechanisms – for example the mechanisms that give rise to genetic and genomic change – are often dumbed down as “mutation”, when mutation is only one of these, and perhaps not the most important of these. Other mechanisms that we now readily detect in genomes include hybridogenesis (perhaps most powerful in the first half million years of divergence between would be separate species), genetic symbiosis (mitochondria, plastids, endogenous retroviruses, phage viruses in relation to bacterial hosts, etc), epigenetic inheritance systems.
When you begin to study the interaction of all these with natural selection, it isn’t so very difficult to perceive how life could, and did, arise from inanimate chemicals. One is also made startlingly aware that all of these mechanisms helped to create the human genome – are still very actively involved in our ongoing evolution.
Frank Ryan – author of The Mysterious World of the Human Genome
Comments: The problem of Abiogenesis has not yet been solved. You presume that life came from matter. Why don’t you consider just the opposite that ‘Matter comes from Life’?
Dear Dr Sankhyan and colleagues interested in “What is Life?”
As to your questions: “How do you define life? How a living cell is different from a dead cell? What is the difference between a person immediately before and immediately after his death?” My answers to all these questions will be published in a next issue of Communicative & Integrative Biology under the title: “How to deduce and teach the logical and unambiguous answer, namely L = Sum C, to “What is Life?” using the principles of communication? Author: Arnold De Loof
The essence of my approach is that all living matter is organized as sender-receiver compartments that incessantly handle information (= communicate) thereby solving problems. ‘Death’ ensues when a given sender-receiver compartment irreversibly (to exclude regeneration) loses its ability to handle information at its highest level of compartmental organization. What happens with the lower levels (if present) is irrelevant. Life sounds like a noun but it is an activity, thus a verb. The verb ‘Life’ denotes nothing else than the total sum of all acts of communication executed at moment t by a sender-receiver at all its levels of compartmental organization. There are many aspects to communication, e.g. defining ‘information’, bringing order in the multitude of levels of compartmental organization, the nature of the immaterial dimension of life etc. This definition of Life harbors the possibility to introduce a novel paradigm in evolutionary theory. All the best,
Arnold De Loof
Comments: Indeed you make a number of interesting points. E.g. that life is an activity, the communicative paradigm as well as the compartmentalization. Yet the essence of all these processes is that life is a cognitive activity. Therefore origin of life and evolution must consider the cognitive concept of life before coming to any immature materialistic concepts like abiogenesis and randomness.
If science has no access to reality, who does? Consciousness itself? Does science having no access to reality imply that reality is indescribable? Thank you
As far as the need for postulating an intelligence which is necessary for life to emerge and evolve, you all need to read Stephen Meyer’s work. He coherently explains why DNA could not evolve naturally and why evolution based on genetic change must have a guiding intelligence. Michael Behe’s work is also significant here.
I found two concepts of matter (Vimal, 2015a):
1. First is the Y?jñavalkya-B?dar?ya?a-Aristotle’s concept, where matter has a r?pa/form and the potentiality for experiences.
2. Second the Ka??da-Democritus’ concept, where matter is made up of atoms or a particle that implies matter is non-experiential.
This latter concept has been used in all sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. This has ended up as the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ (Chalmers, 1995) because it does not explain about life, especially how experiences arise from non-experiential matter. The frameworks, such as the extended Dual-Aspect Monism, that follow first concept of matter do not face such problems (Vimal, 2015a).
R?m Lakhan P?ndey Vimal, Ph.D.
I disagree strongly. Here is why. Agreed classical physics reductionism is simplistic and has serious limits.
However, quantum entanglement (actually pioneered by Schrodinger and Einstein) changes the game. It was too early for Schrodinger back then to connect quantum entanglement to biology. Even beyond quantum entanglement is post-quantum theory only now emerging. Your knowledge of recent relevant progress in the physics of life and consciousness is not up to date.
Jack Sarfattti in reply to Jeremy Christian:
I find this to be a vitally important and infinitely fascinating discussion that I’ve engaged in many times. Life is the component that most humbles us. In this age of science and empirical certainty, life remains a mystery to us. More than simply animating biological creatures, it’s driven and purposeful. Compelled to live and thrive and by dreams and aspirations. Yet all of the causes that manifest in these behaviors remain totally invisible to us scientifically. It’s often dismissed as being behavior born of physical processes in the brain still too complex to comprehend. But there’s a fundamental disconnect between the behaviors of life and the mechanistic explanations we insist on. Scientifically, medically, we only really get biology physically and mechanistically. What life itself is we don’t know. There’s no discernible difference between a living and dead body. We can only determine death by the lack of the physical behaviors associated with something that is alive. Life and the mind are the two components that most signify that not all that exists in reality is within the realm of the physical sciences, despite our insistence to frame them in that regard. They don’t fit the mechanistic mold we’re trying to force them into. Machines compelled only by natural processes don’t generally have desires and preferences. Natural law alone dictates how things behave, except where life is concerned. It seems to play by a different set of rules. Which of course ways right into the topic of free will. If the mind and consciousness, a living being, is nothing more than mechanics, then we can be nothing more than passive observers in a purely determined form. We certainly hold each other accountable for our actions as if they are deliberately, willfully caused, but the real truth behind the reality we insist on is that that cannot actually be true. All matter is ruled by the natural sciences. Our brains cannot be an exception. There cannot be a willful diversion or manipulation of how the physical matter of our brains behave.
It’s in this regard that I find the knee jerk reaction of placing the formation of these behaviors in the vernacular of evolution. Without any sort of physical evidence we assume that behaviors consistent with the will to live as being the result of random mutations that ultimately proved beneficial. It makes sense that anything born with the trait that compels it to live would be more successful at living than those who do not, but there in lies the problem. It’s still an assumption that insists of mechanistic processes alone. Machinery honed through the progression of evolution. It would seem truly anything can be placed in that frame of random mutation and beneficial and fabricate a perfectly reasonable sounding explanation. That logic seem faulty to me considering all we do know about life and the mind. It seems to me the behaviors and characteristics should be much more recognizable as purely mechanistic if this were true. It would seem the obvious conclusion is that in these arenas we’re dealing with something that doesn’t purely adhere to physical laws as we know them. Good discussion.
On Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 7:39:16 PM UTC+5:30, Editors wrote:
Recently one of our paper entitled “Life and Consciousness – The Ved?ntic View” has been published in the Journal Communicative & Integrative Biology. A part of this paper was previously posted to this forum.
Life and Consciousness – The Ved?ntic View
Journal: Communicative & Integrative Biology (Read Paper as: HTML || PDF)
Publication date – 26 Oct 2015 (Online)
Author: Bhakti Niskama Shanta (ORCID-0000-0002-2039-3249)
Summary (Bhakti Niskama Shanta (2015) Life and consciousness – The Ved?ntic view,Communicative & Integrative Biology, 8:5, e1085138; DOI: 10.1080/19420889.2015.1085138):
This paper serves as a critique to the ontological view of the organism as a complex machine. In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descartes claimed that only the human body has a soul, and all other organisms are mere automatons made of meat and bones. Influenced by such a line of thought, most of the scientists were also thinking that only humans are conscious and all other creatures are not. Based on empirical evidence, our published paper presents a case for ubiquity of consciousness in all living organisms. Not only the unicellular organisms (say, bacteria) display cognitive behavior, but that even individual cells in the multicellular organisms exhibit individual cognitive behavior. The scientific confirmation of the existence of consciousness in unicellular organisms and plants certainly establishes that the brain is not the source of consciousness. In modern science, it is generally assumed that matter existed before the universe came to be. However, the dominant materialistic or reductionistic view in modern science cannot explain how matter acquired cognitive features like thinking, feeling and willing. A reductionistic analysis is just a pretension to study life, but in actuality it only deals with the study of dead matter, which is devoid of consciousness. In our paper we termed such types of studies in science as abiology, because a study devoid of cognitive analysis of reality is not a biology proper. On the other hand, the Ved?ntic view states that the origin of everything material and non material is sentient and absolute (unconditioned). Thus, sentient life is primitive and reproductive of itself – omne vivum ex vivo – life comes from life. This is the scientifically verified law of experience. Life is essentially cognitive and conscious. And, consciousness, which is fundamental, manifests itself in the gradational forms of all sentient and insentient nature.
Even though in both artifacts (machines) and living organisms, the ends are determined by purpose (a cognitive act), the difference is that in the case of artifacts, the purpose (designer) is outside the system (external teleology), and in the case of a living organism, the purpose is within (internal teleology). Following a linear logic in the case of artifacts, parts are produced and combined into a whole by the designer. On the other hand, following a circular logic, the body of the living organism appears from another living organism by a developmental process (cell division) and not by the linear accumulation of parts – design. Therefore, proposals like “artificial life”, “artificial intelligence”, “sentient machines” and so on are only fairytales because no designer can produce an artifact with the properties like internal teleology (Naturzweck) and formative force (bildende Kraft). In other words, a machine will never do things for its own internal purpose and it cannot build itself. Although the attempt towards mechanization of nature served as an important driving force behind the scientific revolution, it also unfortunately created an image of a clockwork universe set in motion by an intelligent first cause. Such machine analogy is also applied to living organisms. However, the view that a supernatural being, God, is external to living organisms and that He imposes form on matter from the outside (intelligent design) is also reductionistic, and shows a logical fallacy. The logic of extrinsically purposive systems (machines) cannot be applied to intrinsically purposive systems (living organisms). The Ved?ntic view offers a scientific alternative (The invocation of ?r? ??opani?ad provides the concept of ‘Organic Wholism’: om? p?rn?am adah? p?rn?am idam? p?rn??t p?rn?am udacyate p?rn?asya p?rn?am ?d?ya p?rn?am ev?va?is?yate): “‘Organic Wholes’ produces ‘organic wholes’ and an ‘organic whole’ cannot arise from parts that have to be mechanically assembled. The process of externally assembling parts can only produce inorganic, mechanical machines or chemical processes, not living organisms.” Empirical evidence shows that every living cell comes from a living cell and there is no single evidence that shows a case where a living cell appears from the external assembly/accumulation of biomolecules. According to Ved?nta: “janm?dy asya yata?” – the origin of everything is “abhijña? svar??” – the unitary Supreme Cognizant Being. Twenty first century biology teaches us that we should not inflict our ideas on nature; let nature reveal herself to us.
The rapid progress in molecular and cellular biology is becoming more and more incompatible to Darwinian line of thinking and thus offering challenges from various angles to refute the core of Darwinism. In Darwinism, organisms are often assumed as optimally designed machines blindly engineered by natural selection. However, the cognitive view of life in 21st Century offers a significant challenge to this blind presumption. Living organisms exhibit many overtly noticeable goal-oriented or teleological activities (self-determination, self-formation, self-preservation, self-reproduction, self-restitution and so on), which make them distinct from insentient mechanical and chemical systems. Darwin’s Origin of Speciesinvokes natural selection to explain the goal-driven activities of the living organisms, but the Darwinist insists that random mutations are exclusively responsible for the gradual but steady appearance of more complicated organisms. This irrational inability to scientifically explain how novel body types arise in study of life and its evolution is the major deficiency of Darwinism. In contrast to the idea of objective evolution of bodies, as envisioned by Darwin and followers, Ved?nta advocates the idea of subjective evolution of consciousness as the developing principle of the world. In Ved?nta, the reincarnation theory is based on the subjective evolution of consciousness and the Darwinian objective evolution theory of bodies is a perverted representation of this ancient wisdom. In Darwinism, evolution means transformation of bodies, and in Ved?ntic view evolution means transformation of consciousness. In this paper, an attempt has been made to highlight a few relevant developments supporting a sentient view of life in scientific research, which has caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of life and its origin.
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Bhakti Niskama Shanta (2015) Life and consciousness – The Ved?ntic view, Communicative & Integrative Biology, 8:5, e1085138; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19420889.2015.1085138
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