Week 7/ Consciousness / Andrew Curnow

Consciousness. What is it? How can one determine if another is ‘conscious’? These topics were all covered in Siddharth Ramakrishnan’s lecture. However in my own mind, I truly still had questions as to what IS consciousness? This brought me back to the topic we learned about involving Bees and their form of sight and navigation. A bees navigational system is near extraordinaire, allowing them to position and navigate utilizing polarized light while  giving precise directions utilizing ‘bee dances’.  To an average person, for example me before I researched the topic, I would assume the Bee as a creature nearly ignorant to the world, simply doing the job of pollination. However, this was in my own perspective, and excluding the possibilities of the bee itself. This was my fallacy from the start, I was observing and deducing the Bee’s mentality from my own point of view. Simply thinking on another tangent, in the bees point of view, could allow humans as not being conscious due to or lack of natural navigational skill.

                The fact that Bees are able to process light on a completely different level, given the ability to analyze more wavelengths of light than the human eye brought forth another question. If bees, which are small insects that seemingly live a routine life, are conscious, then at what point to we deem a creature ‘unconscious’?  Of course many people have determined that other mammals such as dogs and cats are conscious, as they search for food, respond to touch, have sight and smell, and even the debatable term ‘feelings’, but what about smaller less understood organisms? Does this constitute animals with a nervous system are then conscious? I looked through various sources concerning this question, finding that there is no answer, only opinion. Peter Russell wrote online in ‘The Spirit of Now’ concerning such a topic. Are creatures such as single celled bacteria conscious? They undoubtedly serve purposes, some more important than others, and have developed attributes that assist them through life, but whether they are actually conscious of their surroundings is debatable. For instance, certain phytoplankton in the ocean are readily observed changes location and habits in order to better feed, the question as to whether this is considered consciousness or simply natural instinct at its simplest is left unanswered.

Of course the argument of whether humans possess true intelligence and conscious as opposed to simple natural instinct is another argument in itself. It’s obvious certain animals are conscious, but the fact that humans openly communicate and share obscure ideas and knowledge automatically places us above other animal species, or so certain people claim. Once again the fact of the matter truly falls under the topic of discussed by Siddharth Ramakrishnan, the idea of umwelt, that consciousness falls under the point of view and perception of each individual creature.  Through all of this, my questions remained unanswered, however I developed an insight that no one can truly distinguish what consciousness is, it is dependent on the view point.

Source: http://www.peterrussell.com/SCG/EoC.php

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