Much Ado about Everything
Thomas Nagel recently published a review of Daniel C. Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds in the New York Review of Books. The review is entitled “Is Consciousness an Illusion?” The article fit in nicely with my need, probably shared by way too many millions, to find something that made sense of anything, anything at all, even in an eerie manner, given the fact that, especially in the United States, we have entered into a political twilight zone apparently on the other side of a looking glass in a trash bin somewhere in a DC Comics Bizarro world.
The book looks at our existence from a non-quotidian perspective that struck a chord I’d not played for a while: the phenomena we refer to as consciousness, self-awareness, sentience; one that has fascinated me for a very long time, both scientifically and spiritually as, to me, it is possibly the link betwixt them.
Like many others, although perhaps not enough of us, I have been intrigued by the concepts of religion and spirituality for most of my life. As I’ve written in the past, I have yet to find answers but have found more and more questions, increasing in both number and complexity. I seem to have transcended the traditional quest for a choice among the available cultural menus and milieus into pure speculation and generation of non-traditional hypotheses focused on very different perceptions of what one might consider divine. Divine, not in a sense of perfection and power and certainly not in an anthropomorphic sense, especially not in the sense of a creative demiurge, but rather in a sense of sentient existences beyond our own personal spheres in the same sense that as individuals, we are sentient entities beyond the experiential sphere of the quarks and atoms and molecules and cells that comprise us.
If there is a divinity or a series of divinities, it seems to me that consciousness – self-awareness – sentience would be the defining phenomena, more so than power, or omniscience or omnipotence. Apparently, consciousness – self-awareness – sentience requires a degree of interactive complexity which we as a species have attained as have, to varying degrees, other species that cohabit our world. Authors, at least in the realm of science fiction, ironically using Richard Dawkins’ meme and memeplex theory, have played with this to speculate on the possibility that planetary systems, solar systems, galaxies, universes and the multiverse may also be capable of attaining consciousness – self-awareness – sentience (see, e.g., Ian Stewart’s and Jack Cohen’s Heaven). Speculation I find, as Mr. Spock might note, fascinating. I wonder what Sherlock Holmes would think.
Much ado about nothing perhaps, or perhaps about everything.
The review that set off this at least entertaining chain of interrupted speculation can be found at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/03/09/is-consciousness-an-illusion-dennett-evolution/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Dennett%20immigration%20reform%20Chopin&utm_content=NYR%20Dennett%20immigration%20reform%20Chopin+CID_c0a3091a06cff6ddbb541b093215f280&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=Is%20Consciousness%20an%20Illusion
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved