About CharlieM

Non academic, interested in learning about life and evolution.

Vision and the Eye

Darwin said, “the eye to this day gives me a cold shudder”. If that was true back then, if he had today’s knowledge of the eye he would be shaken down to his genes. A cursory glance at the scientific findings or our visual system reveals an organized complexity at all levels of resolution from millimeter to nanometer.

Take a close look at an eye. Between the object that I fix my gaze on and its sharp image cast onto one of my retinas there stands the cornea, aqueous humour, the iris and pupil, the lens, the vitreous humour

Precorneal tear film provides nutrients, lubrication for the cornea. It is antibacterial and removes debris while allowing light to pass through, refracted but virtually unrestricted. It isn’t a homologous film but consists of three layers, an outer lipid layer, an aqueous layer which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the cornea, and an inner layer of mucus.
Passing through this it then encounters the cornea and is again refracted, and then to the iris which control amount of light, onward through the lens which is adjusted by the ciliary muscles to focus the image at the retina.

From first entering the eye the light passes thorough a series of remarkable structures.

Corneal structure and transparency, by Keith M. Meek and Carlo Knupp, 2015:

The basic principles of corneal structure and transparency have been known for some time, but in recent years X-ray scattering and other methods have revealed that the details of this structure are far more complex than previously thought and that the intricacy of the arrangement of the collagenous lamellae provides the shape and the mechanical properties of the tissue.

If the remarkable structure of the cornea isn’t awe inspiring enough, then surely a glance at the retina will fill anyone with eye-popping astonishment. Not forgetting that retinas are living entities with life cycles that allow the whole to function as the parts are constantly being renewed.

I was inspired by comments in my previous thread to take a closer look at the visual system we share. Just a short time searching for info on this system has provided me with so much detail to add to my basic knowledge of the mechanisms involved. I think we could discuss this in more depth, share knowledge, and have an argument or two along the way. Sounds like fun to me and I’m sure I’ll learn a thing or two.

 

 

The Rediscovery of Meaning

The Rediscovery of Meaning is a volume of a collection of essays by Owen Barfield listed here.

Here is a video on Owen Barfield and the meaning crisis. It includes many video clips discussing the history of knowledge from our modern Western perspective. Barfield notes the feeling of meaninglessness that was coming to prominence in the twentieth century and continues on. He asks:

How is it that the more man becomes able to manipulate the world to his advantage the less he can perceive any meaning in it?

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Psi

Parapsychology, psi, ESP, auras, NDEs, anomalous cognition, psychic research. A load of woo! Nothing to see here!

Can we ignore the testimonies of those who claim to have had a near death experience, people who demonstrate blindfolded vision or who seem to have other psychic abilities?

Here and here, are videos about the work of Nicola Farmer, a woman who works with children and seemingly teaches them to see while blindfolded.

She’s either a heartless con merchant who uses children to fool the public or someone who sincerely believes she is enhancing their lives and what you see is genuine. What are your thoughts on this.

The Goethean method as a complement to conventional science

Modern science is in danger of fragmentation and of becoming a study of artificial abstractions which become increasingly severed from reality.

As translated from Maurice Merleau-Ponty in  L’Œil et l’Esprit

 

“Science manipulates things and gives up living in them. It makes its own limited models of things; operating upon these indices or variables to effect whatever transformations are permitted by their definition, it comes face to face with the real world only at rare intervals. Science is and always will be that admirably active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general – as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predestined for our own use.”

 

Introducing the Goethean method brings back the connection between the investigator and the subject under investigation.

This review by Bo Dahlin investigates science education in relation to a phenomenological approach. Continue reading

The Inevitability of Life and Consciousness

Kantian Naturalist brought up the subjects of autopoesis and organizational closure whereby biological systems maintain a distinctive form while being thermodynamically open. Not only do they achieve a low entropy state but they maintain it over time.

From Wikipedia:

Autopoietic systems are “structurally coupled” with their medium, embedded in a dynamic of changes that can be recalled as sensory-motor coupling. This continuous dynamic is considered as a rudimentary form of knowledge or cognition and can be observed throughout life-forms.

 

This is not yet the inner conscious awareness possessed by higher animals but it is a step in that direction. Continue reading

Common Trends in Evolution

Does evolution repeat itself? Could evolution repeat itself? Where do people stand in relation to the thoughts of  Gould and Conway Morris?

Gould has a point, everything is in a state of becoming. As Heraclitus would say, all is change. Replay the tape and nothing would be the same. But would or could there be any similar trends? Would life in general proceed in such a radically different way that Gould makes out?

From “Life’s Grandeur”, Gould states:

“…no persuasive or predictable thrust toward progress permeates the history of life…

“Wind the tape of life to the origin of multicellular animals in the Cambrian explosion, let the tape play again from this identical starting point, and the replay will populate the earth (and generate a right tail of life) with a radically different set of creatures. The chance that this alternative set will contain anything remotely like a human being must be effectively nil, while the probability of any kind of creature endowed with self-consciousness must also be extremely small.”

Conway Morris disagrees with Gould’s conclusion. He champions an inevitable path and cites convergent evolution as evidence which suggests this.

In “The Crucible of Creation” he states,

“What we are interested in is not the origin, destiny, or fate of a particular lineage, but the likelihood of the emergence of a particular property, say consciousness. Here the reality of convergence suggests that the tape of life, to use Gould’s metaphor, can run as many times as we like and in principle intelligence will surely emerge.”

I’m interested in what people have to say about this and its relation to topics such as the emergence of bilateral symmetry and differentiation from head to tail, extreme specialization, encephalization, endothermy, caring for young, transitions from aquatic to terrestrial living and other related topics. These processes have occurred multiple times in different lineages over time.

Evolution Reflected in Development

Below is an image of the developmental path from human conception to adult in comparison with evolutionary path from prokaryote to human.

Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour. Comparative stages may be vastly different in detail, but the similarity of general lifestyles and consecutive stages are there to be observed. Continue reading

The Reformed Joker with a Serious Message

Russell Brand provides some food for thought in this video.

He quotes Edward F. Edinger explaining that we need a central living myth to give us a reason for our existence. “Meaning is lost, and in its place primitive and atavistic contents are reactivated. Differentiated values disappear and are replaced by the elemental motives of power and pleasure, or else the individual is exposed to emptiness and despair.”

Look at how much extra wealth Jeff Bezos has acquired since the pandemic took hold. Coronavirus is changing our world. Society is becoming more divided than ever at a time when we should be working together and seeking unity.

And here I am pointing two fingers, one at society in general and the other at myself.

We need people like Daniel C. Wahl and Declan Kennedy if there is going to be any sort of future worth living.

 

 

 

The arrival of individual self consciousness.

Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?

The part:
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

The whole:
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.

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From arithmetic, geometry and kinematics through mechanics to life.

Steiner’s first lecture of the First Scientific Lecture-Course, the so called, ‘Light course’, given in Stuttgart, on the 23rd December 1919, can be read here and it can be listened to here

He explains how the natural scientists of his day proceeded. They were interested in categorising, looking for causes behind phenomena, and observing phenomena to arrive at the ‘laws’ of nature. Goethe did not proceed in this way. He was not interested in looking for and speculating about unknown causes or categorisation. He looked at nature and observed how it was forever changing and studied this metamorphosis in great detail. He wished to stay within the observable to ask what it could tell him without speculating about any laws or hidden world behind the one observed.

The natural science are forever looking for pointwise forces to explain life. But, according to Steiner, life cannot be explained in this way. Life is formed out of the universal peripheral forces. These forces are not the same as the mechanical pointwise forces which are open to measurement. Steiner explains it thus: Continue reading

Life Force, Compensation, Connections & the Ebb and Flow of Nature

In the latest post in my previous thread I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson. The first paragraph read:

Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light, in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids and of sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle, the opposite magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.

The term, ‘life force’ will most probably invoke many criticisms and objections. But if we take it to mean observed vitality and let it stand at that without speculating any further, we can study its ‘ebb and flow’ in the natural world around us. We can see these processes in a wide variety of life forms. Continue reading

The Spiralling Flow of Life

In this series of videos Johannas Jaeger gives us some very interesting things to consider. He considers proteins to be pleomorphic assemblies not molecular machines.
Jaeger doesn’t believe in, nor feel the need to propose any extrinsic form of vitalism, but he does accept what Denis Walsh called methodological vitalism. If organisms are purposeful then it is an intrinsic purposefulness.

If we are to gain a meaningful understanding of the organism the machine metaphor will in no way suffice. Life is self-sustaining at all levels. The symbol of the caduceus is apt at so many levels, from the double helix of DNA to the movement of the solar system as it travels around the galaxy. Here is a link to a gif of the motion of the planets relative to the sun. Our hearts take on their form by the layers of muscle being laid down in a helical manner as the blood spirals onward. Continue reading

From the parts to the whole or from the whole to the parts.

Alan doesn’t believe that there are any other proposed explanations to rival ‘evolutionary theory’. At least none that so effectively account for the facts.

It is often said that there is no single theory of evolution, there are a group of mutually consistent theories. Be that as it may, I think we all understand the point Alan is making.

Evolution is a process whereby life has somehow emerged from a lifeless physical world and there is no overall teleology involved in its diversification. The reproductive processes produce a natural variety of forms which can take advantage of previously unoccupied niches. The basic sequence of events from primal to present are: lifeless minerals, water systems and gaseous atmosphere, followed by the arrival of simple prokaryote life forms, followed by multicellular organisms. Life is solely the product of physical and chemical processes acting on lifeless matter.

In this view life is nothing special, it just occurred because physical matter chanced to arrange itself in a particular way. And consciousness is just a by product of life.

But I suggest that there is an alternative way in which life as we perceive it could have come about.

Continue reading

Evolution- Observations and Beliefs

We all know the story physical life has built up slowly on this earth. Its diversity now ranges from prokayotes to individuals possessing self-conscious creativity.

Out of those that believe in some form of evolution who would take issue with the very rough account that follows?
Life has its beginning in water. Multi-cellular life makes its appearance. The atmosphere changes in such a way as to allow animal life to evolve. Living creatures emerge from the water, moving over the land and breathing the air. At some point plants also spread out of the water and colonised the land. With animals came sentience and the development of individual consciousness. Possessing four limbs provided mobility while also allowing further development which gave a stable means of supporting the body. Organisms can then evolve in which these limbs are in a position to hold the body clear of the ground. Sentience develops to the stage where animals not only possess various sensations but they can also consciously communicate their inner feelings to others and make sense of the communication of others. The latest novel attributes of life are self consciousness and rational thinking. Humans not only communicate feelings but we can communicate objective thinking and are the most creative beings on the planet. We also have a modicum of free will which can be continuously developed over time. My account is beginning to contain details which, if people have any interest, a few might deem worth challenging.

Now it gets more controversial. Continue reading

Shifting paradigms

Are we beginning to see a major paradigm shift, steadily moving away from the prevailing physicalist, materialist.mechanistic mindset?

Integral theory is one attempt to move beyond any narrow,exclusive views of reality proclaimed by representives of science, religion, philosophy, spiritual traditions or whatever. Jennifer Gidley writes about integral thinking and the evolution of consciousness here

There are periods in human and cultural evolution when humanity passes through such fundamental transformations that our reality shifts and new patterns of thought are required to make sense of the unfolding human drama . . . The profound transformation we are now witnessing has been emerging on a global scale over millennia and has matured to a tipping point and rate of acceleration that has radically altered and will continue to alter our human condition in every aspect. We must therefore expand our perspective and call forth unprecedented narrative powers to name, diagnose, and articulate this shift… Integral philosopher Ashok Gangadean in the opening quotation encapsulates what many integral theorists have been voicing over the past decade. It is this integral research on emergent movement(s) of consciousness that I am referring to as the evolution of consciousness discourse This research points to the emergence of a new structure,stage(s) or movement of consciousness that has been referred to by various terms, most notably, post-formal integral and planetary.

Jude Currivan says that instead of big bang we have the big breath. The “outbreath” that gives rise to the physical unverse. Matter and energy are the products of information. The physical universe is in-formed as she puts it.


She discusses her views here in “Restating and reunifying reality: Our in-formed and holographic universe”.


This is part of an annual Mystics and Scientists conference promoted by The Scientific & Medical Network


The metaphor of the big bang conjures up images of a destructive explosion leading to chaos. But we should imagine the universe as a birth of order and organisation and this is more in keeping with a breathing process by which we communicate compositions of song, poetry and prose. Evolution is the creation of order out of chaos.


So are we seeing a movement to a more integrated, holistic understanding of reality where, rather than being a mere by product of a particular arrangement of matter, consciousness plays a primal, central role? The cosmos is breathed into existence, the out-breathing Word, the Logos, creates the living universe. Consciousness is the alpha and omega.

Breaking Down Barriers

In the video Moral Technology Conference 2016: Day 1 Lecture 1, NIcanor Perlas advocates participating in global conversations which break down the barriers of compartmentalization.

I share his belief that whoever has the money and power, their vision will be the de facto world we are living in, Those with the power make the prominent worldview, the only worldview that is allowed to be taken seriously. Whether or not it is in keeping with reality it will eventually become reality.

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Metaphors

These days researchers are obsessed with making models as an aid to understanding reality. But there is a danger here in that in concentrating on the models the actual living world around us is lost sight of. And the same can be said regarding the metaphors that are in frequent use. How true to reality is the mind picture evoked by the metaphor.

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