By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.
Physician to Meta-Physician
“Human intelligence is a reflection of the intelligence that produces everything…We minic the mind of God. Knowing and being are identical.” – Houston Smith
Does the universe operate according to a higher intelligence?
This is the underlying basis of all religion. Yet as a skeptical metaphysician I am entitled to question everything! Where is the evidence? Where is the sign that some grand Being put all of this together and directs the way it unfolds and why believe that mind/consciousness/intelligence is anything more than a human invention?
There are several aspects to this issue and they have been debated since the dawn of mankind. Regarding the nature of intelligence or consciousness: it seems to me that Houston Smith, professor of religious studies and author of scores of book is correct. But first we need to understand that there are several different terms which need to be ‘fused’ in order to appreciate the concept of ‘mind’. I am using this term in conjunction with that of ‘intelligence’, ‘information’, and ‘consciousness’. Hopefully this will shed more light than darkness.
Hard-core neuroscientists regard our self-awareness as the ’emergent’ property of the neural process itself. In other words, our concept of ourselves, our thinking aware belief that we are unique and have a mind is an accidental product of neuro-chemical reactions in our physical brain–nothing more.
But, as neuroscientsts Kafatos and Nadeu have noted, If consciousness is an emergent property of the universe, in the case of human beings, would not this imply, given the underlying wholeness of the cosmos, that the universe is itself conscious?
Perhaps human consciousness reflects an inherent property of the universe. Physicist Freeman Dyson believes that ‘mind’ exists to a degree within the entire universe. After all, how does a subatomic particle ‘know’ how to behave, to exhibit characteristics that define it as such? How does a carbon atom which exists in an identical form throughout the universe retain its properties so precisely? Each represents ‘information’, if you will, and ‘information’ is a form of ‘mind’. Its own existence is evidence of its own ‘informational content’ and why not see this as a form of consciousness.
Consciousness or mind does not have to be as ‘self-aware’ as our own to represent a part of a continuum. On some level, are rocks and trees conscious? Are one-celled creatures ‘aware’ at all? Do they posses mind/consciousness? And if so, what is the source of this? Israeli scientists have isolated a peptide, a bio-protein that is secreted by amebas into their enviornment when they are struggling to divide in two! This peptide attracts other amebas to assist in the ‘delivery’. It is astounding, is it not to ponder the level of intelligence that exists within such a ‘simple’ blob of protoplasm. But of course the point is just that–there are no simple, unintelligent cells. Molecular biologists stand in awe at the complexity of all aspects of cellular existence. The degree of biochemical sophistication that occurs at the cell membrane of every cell in every living organism at every milisecond is beyond comprehension. We are the product of trillions of cells, all coordinating efforts that merely magnify what can be demonstrated in the most primitive forms of life.
Plants are capable of signalling each other via root born and air born signals during an attack of insect preditors or fire. Perhaps these ‘miracles’ are merely the chance production of blind evolutionary forces. Yet are we even capable of understand how this arose?
Man often likes to regard his own mind as unique and special. But is it even logical to regard human intelligence as the only form that has manifested within this universe? Not to me, I must add. To see the continuum of mind as beginning in the subatomic realm and ending in mankind seems severely near-sighted and self-indulgent. It seems much more reasonable to understand that perhaps mind/consciousness is a basic constituent of this universe, as much an integral part as, say gravity or other physical constants. That is opinion of philosopher David Chalmers. In truth, physicists cannot explain the origin of the basic physical forces in nature. They just exist and are regarded as so by physicists. Consciousness/mind may very well be understood on the same level.
Of course such discussions only raise bigger questions: is this continuum of consciousness/mind leading us to accept the reality of ultimate Cosmic Mind or a notion of God? Is this a logical or rational approach to spirituality? But, of course, even more profoundly confounding questions immediately arise: if there is a Cosmic Mind, then why are we surrounded by suffering and evil?
Can mankind even attempt to fathom this mystery? We shall ponder these mysteries together in upcoming posts.
© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006
Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com