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Author Topic:   Brain Evolution
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 840 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 31 of 43 (480948)
09-07-2008 11:04 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Fosdick
09-07-2008 1:13 PM


Re: Consciousness and the brain
Hoot Mon writes:

Do you think Helen Keller gained more consciousness after she was trained to use a symbolic language? Or was her human consciousness innate to her and fixed from birth?

There's a good case to be made that the development of consciousness (in the sense of "awareness") is concomitant with -- and ultimately equates to -- the development of language. There's an interesting (though not specifically scientific) discussion of the idea here: Consciousness is Nothing but a Word (AbE: author of the cited article is Henry D. Schlinger -- the article actually begins a bit below the spot targeted by the url, so scroll down to find it).

Since the early 1960's, there has also been quite a bit of discussion (again, more philosophical than scientific, but firmly based on observable facts) about how language is something genetically "wired" into the human brain structure. Of course, an intriguing property of the human capacity for language is that it cannot develop if there is no human language being used around (and addressed to) the child.

Any linguistic input will do -- any infant, regardless of his/her genetic parentage, is able to acquire native fluency in any human language, provided that the language is used around the child, and the child is expected (and has the physical ability) to interact with others using the language. This applies to sign language as well, but with an interesting twist: because deafness is often the result of "environmental" factors as opposed to inherited traits, children who must learn it often do not encounter "native speakers", unless they gain access to an established community, such as a school for the deaf. Even in the absence of such access, the need and intent to communicate will drive the child and family members to invent at least a minimum essential set of expressions, "lexical" gestures and rules of syntax, and the language will increase in expressive power and complexity the more it is used. (Note that the development of language is not a matter of "design" -- the users do not plan out the symbols and rules they will use; language acquisition/creation is an opportunistic and imperfectly self-organizing process.)

Finally, there is a case to be made that the kind of consciousness/awareness that derives from interaction within a social group, and/or within a multi-species environment, is something that can be observed as a gradient across species: humans have a lot of it, and theirs is of a very complex, multi-layered nature. But other species have it as well: theirs may be extremely limited in comparison, but studies of animal behavior in the last few decades demonstrates that we are starting to figure out how to detect and understand it.

(Of course, a capacity for consciousness in all species was something our animist ancestors took for granted, and this mind-set may well have been a feature that was favored in natural selection: it entailed having an appropriate degree of respect for the other species around you, in relation to the threats or benefits they posed to your survival.)

Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

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BVZ
Member (Idle past 4000 days)
Posts: 36
Joined: 08-20-2008


Message 32 of 43 (480989)
09-08-2008 11:09 AM


A few questions from me:

1) You say language is needed for awareness, what do you mean by this? Why do you think that the ability to pass on information from one organism to another using some protocol both understand is needed for awareness?

2) Are bees 'aware' because they have a language?

3) Is plasticity needed for awareness?

Thank you.


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AdminNosy
Administrator
Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 33 of 43 (480991)
09-08-2008 11:44 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by BVZ
09-08-2008 11:09 AM


Use of Reply buttons
Welcome aboard EvC BVZ!

A small note:
Please use the small green-marked reply button at the lower left of the post you are replying too. This links your post to the one you are replying too and, optionally, sends a notification to the person you are replying too. This makes it easier to follow the thread of conversation.

The general reply button on the left is only used occasionally when your post isn't specific to any other post but rather to the topic of the thread as a whole.

Also, it is useful to quote relevant portions of the message you are replying to.

E.g.,

A few questions from me:

Use the "peek" button on the lower right to find out how I got that formating.


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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 34 of 43 (481002)
09-08-2008 12:38 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by onifre
09-06-2008 8:24 PM


Re: Evolving Consciousness
I wouldn't doubt that you could switch consciousness with intelligence since it's a very gray area which people can confuse, (and because both intelligence and consciousness increase almost together). I meant consciousness though because my point was that you can't become intelligent or knowledgeable about something, untill you are conscious of it's existance.

I guess we're kinda talking past each other.... I think the problem is in that word "awareness".

I don't think that we, today, are more conscious that us 10,000 years ago.

You're saying that because we're more intelligent, then we are more aware, and thus more conscious. But I don't think we mean the same thing by "awareness" in the context of consciousness.

For example, we both understand how sound is pressure waves propagating through the atmosphere (we are intelligient of it). A rabbit, on the other hand, cannot understand those things.

Now, take me or you and a rabbit in a field along with a fox. You and I could be completely unaware of the fox while the rabbit is completely aware of it because the rabbit can hear it and we cannot. Our intellignece on the matter of how sound would travel from a fox to our ears does nothing to make us more aware of the fox.

And that's how I'm thinking of "awareness" in regards to us being no more aware than 10,000 years ago.

Obviously, we're a lot more intelligent and have a greater understanding of our environment. But I don't see that as making us more conscious of our environment.

You know what I mean?

I don't think that having more knowledge makes us more conscious, at least not in the way that I am thinking of consciousness.

I guess there's just a lot of concepts that overlap in this subject. Its kinda hard to discuss the subject without having all the concepts nailed down to one word.

Sapience, consciousness, awareness, and intelligence all describe different things, IMO.

Consciousness in regards to awareness is like the opposite of being unconscious, or knocked out.

But consciousness, as in awareness of your environment, like being conscious of your surrondings, is different than just being awake (or not knocked out) IMHO.

And now you're talking about consciousness in regards to intelligence and having more intelligence makes you more conscious.

I guess in that sense, man 10,000 years ago was less conscious, but I don't think they were less conscious in the previous two senses.

And that's where I think we're talking past each other.


This message is a reply to:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 35 of 43 (481005)
09-08-2008 12:51 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by BVZ
09-08-2008 11:09 AM


1) You say language is needed for awareness, what do you mean by this? Why do you think that the ability to pass on information from one organism to another using some protocol both understand is needed for awareness?

I said that language was needed for sapience. <-- clicky

Awareness is a triky word. Language is not needed to be "awake" (aware), but it is needed for "understanding" (awareness).

2) Are bees 'aware' because they have a language?

Bees' "language" can be reduced to a simple input/output programm. They dance facing the direction of the flower and for some time indicating the distance so then they can communicate the location of the flower in that way. But that is different than a language in which all the bees would be understanding and aware of the actual existece of the language itself and how it can be used to commincate ideas.

So the answer to your question is "no".

3) Is plasticity needed for awareness?

That depends on what you mean by "awareness".

I doubt plasticity is needed to be conscious in the sense that you are not unconsciouss, or to be "aware" in the sense that you are not sleeping. However, if we're talking about awarenss as in understanding knowledge, then yes I'd say that plasticity is needed or at least important, well, that is as I understand it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by BVZ, posted 09-08-2008 11:09 AM BVZ has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 36 by BVZ, posted 09-09-2008 1:41 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
BVZ
Member (Idle past 4000 days)
Posts: 36
Joined: 08-20-2008


Message 36 of 43 (481083)
09-09-2008 1:41 AM
Reply to: Message 35 by New Cat's Eye
09-08-2008 12:51 PM


I said that language was needed for sapience. <-- clicky

Awareness is a triky word. Language is not needed to be "awake" (aware), but it is needed for "understanding" (awareness).

The distinction between what you call "aware" and "understanding" seems like an arbitrary one to me. Could you explain the difference in more detail?

Bees' "language" can be reduced to a simple input/output programm. They dance facing the direction of the flower and for some time indicating the distance so then they can communicate the location of the flower in that way. But that is different than a language in which all the bees would be understanding and aware of the actual existece of the language itself and how it can be used to commincate ideas.

So, according to you, a language can only be a language when those that use it know that it exists.

Why is it important for the users of a language to know it is a language before it is a language?

That depends on what you mean by "awareness".

I doubt plasticity is needed to be conscious in the sense that you are not unconsciouss, or to be "aware" in the sense that you are not sleeping. However, if we're talking about awarenss as in understanding knowledge, then yes I'd say that plasticity is needed or at least important, well, that is as I understand it.

I am unable to understand what you are saying without knowing what exactly you mean with "understanding knowledge". Could you explain further?

Thank you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-08-2008 12:51 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 37 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-09-2008 10:15 AM BVZ has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 37 of 43 (481092)
09-09-2008 10:15 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by BVZ
09-09-2008 1:41 AM


The distinction between what you call "aware" and "understanding" seems like an arbitrary one to me. Could you explain the difference in more detail?

The difference was between "awake" and "understanding". Just because you're not unconscious doesn't mean that you understand your surroundings.

The word "conscious" can mean both "not being asleep" and also "understanding your surroundings".

So, according to you, a language can only be a language when those that use it know that it exists.

Whoa... slow dow. You're new here so I'll cut you some slack. But you are pushing me into a position and/or putting words into my mouth.

Here's what I said:

quote:
But that is different than a language in which all the bees would be understanding and aware of the actual existece of the language itself

Bees' language is different from our language. I haven't stated whether or not it can be rightly called a language.

Why is it important for the users of a language to know it is a language before it is a language?

In the context of language being key to sapience, if you are not aware of the language you are using then it can hardly be contributing to your spaience.

You asked if bees' having a language makes them aware. Now, if by aware we are talking about sapience, then no. If we're talking about simply being awake, well then obviously they are not asleep but what's the point in discussing that?

I am unable to understand what you are saying without knowing what exactly you mean with "understanding knowledge". Could you explain further?

You can be knowledgable of something existing without undertanding its existence.

I don't think that the bees understand that, say, each second of vibration equals 10 feet distance so since the flower is 60 feet away I must vibrate in the difection of the flower for 6 seconds and then all my buddys will know where it is. It is just an instinct, a simple input/output program.

The bee has to have knowledge of the flower in order to communicate where it is, but they do not have to understand that knowledge.

This distinction between their language and ours means that, although they are obvuously not sleeping, them having what some might discribe as a language does not suggest that they have sapience.

We (me and others) were discussing how understanding knowledge might contribute to higher consciousness.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 36 by BVZ, posted 09-09-2008 1:41 AM BVZ has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 38 by BVZ, posted 09-09-2008 1:11 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
BVZ
Member (Idle past 4000 days)
Posts: 36
Joined: 08-20-2008


Message 38 of 43 (481117)
09-09-2008 1:11 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by New Cat's Eye
09-09-2008 10:15 AM



The distinction between what you call "aware" and "understanding" seems like an arbitrary one to me. Could you explain the difference in more detail?

The difference was between "awake" and "understanding". Just because you're not unconscious doesn't mean that you understand your surroundings. The word "conscious" can mean both "not being asleep" and also "understanding your surroundings".

I am trying my best to understand this. I agree that being awake does not require language. Why does 'understanding' require language? Isn't an internal model that matches what is being observed enough? Is there reason to believe that language is needed before internal models of reality can be constructed?


So, according to you, a language can only be a language when those that use it know that it exists.

Whoa... slow dow. You're new here so I'll cut you some slack. But you are pushing me into a position and/or putting words into my mouth.

Here's what I said:

quote:
But that is different than a language in which all the bees would be understanding and aware of the actual existece of the language itself

Bees' language is different from our language. I haven't stated whether or not it can be rightly called a language.

Ah, sorry. My mistake.

You are not saying that bees are not aware AT ALL. You are saying that assuming that they have language, this is not reason enough to think that they are aware.

Is your position this: Language does not quarantee awareness, but awareness needs language.

Am I on the right track?


Why is it important for the users of a language to know it is a language before it is a language?

In the context of language being key to sapience, if you are not aware of the language you are using then it can hardly be contributing to your spapience.

Could you provide me with a link that describes 'sapience' more clearly? I have a suspicion that my misunderstanding is driven by my ignorance. I have googled it a bit, but it seems that everyone has their own idea of what it means.


You asked if bees' having a language makes them aware. Now, if by aware we are talking about sapience, then no. If we're talking about simply being awake, well then obviously they are not asleep but what's the point in discussing that?

Okay. Thank you for the answer.


I am unable to understand what you are saying without knowing what exactly you mean with "understanding knowledge". Could you explain further?

You can be knowledgable of something existing without undertanding its existence.

I don't think that the bees understand that, say, each second of vibration equals 10 feet distance so since the flower is 60 feet away I must vibrate in the difection of the flower for 6 seconds and then all my buddys will know where it is. It is just an instinct, a simple input/output program.

The bee has to have knowledge of the flower in order to communicate where it is, but they do not have to understand that knowledge.

This distinction between their language and ours means that, although they are obvuously not sleeping, them having what some might discribe as a language does not suggest that they have sapience.

We (me and others) were discussing how understanding knowledge might contribute to higher consciousness.

Okay. Sorry to clutter up your thread with my noise. But at least I think I have a better understanding now.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-09-2008 10:15 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 39 of 43 (481126)
09-09-2008 2:33 PM
Reply to: Message 38 by BVZ
09-09-2008 1:11 PM


Why does 'understanding' require language?

I believe that sapience requires language because the necessary thinking takes place in the form of language. Without language, thoughts cannot take the form needed for sapience.

"Visual thinking" doesn't lead to level of understanding needed for sapience, IMHO.

Isn't an internal model that matches what is being observed enough? Is there reason to believe that language is needed before internal models of reality can be constructed?

What internal model?

Is your position this: Language does not quarantee awareness, but awareness needs language.

Am I on the right track?

Yes (assuming we're talkin' 'bout the same concept when refering to "awareness", which is not mearly being awake but having the understanding required for sapience).

Could you provide me with a link that describes 'sapience' more clearly? I have a suspicion that my misunderstanding is driven by my ignorance. I have googled it a bit, but it seems that everyone has their own idea of what it means.

You're probably not going to find one consensus on what sapience actually is. I gave you a link to the wiki page above in this message and in a previous message.

You can also look at wiki page on metacognition for more details on the concept.

Now, I may step back a little on my position. Metacognition (or sapience) might not absolutely require language in the strict definition of language, but for all practical purposes I'm comfortable saying that it needs it or, at the least, some level of communication.

If we imagine the emergence of sapience in the Homo genus, we going to have to image language emerging right along side it. They go hand-in-hand, IMHO.

Okay. Thank you for the answer.

Okay. Sorry to clutter up your thread with my noise. But at least I think I have a better understanding now.

I'm glad I could help. You're welcome. You don't need to apologize.


Now that I think about it....

quote:
Language does not quarantee awareness

I'll argue this point a bit.

I don't think that bees' really have a language. They have some type of communication system but I don't think it qualifies as language.

Language, in the true sense of the word, does garantee awareness, I think. I don't think that you can have true language without awareness.

But the way we have been using the word "language" to describe what the bees are doing, I will maintain that that kind of language does not imply awareness.


Science fails to recognize the single most potent element of human existence.
Letting the reigns go to the unfolding is faith, faith, faith, faith.
Science has failed our world.
Science has failed our Mother Earth.
-System of a Down, "Science"

He who makes a beast out of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man.
-Avenged Sevenfold, "Bat Country"


This message is a reply to:
 Message 38 by BVZ, posted 09-09-2008 1:11 PM BVZ has not yet responded

  
onifre
Member (Idle past 1460 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 40 of 43 (481179)
09-09-2008 8:37 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by New Cat's Eye
09-08-2008 12:38 PM


Re: Evolving Consciousness
You're saying that because we're more intelligent, then we are more aware, and thus more conscious.

No no. Im saying since we are a conscious species, (aware of ourselves) not just aware in the sense that bees are aware, we become intelligent.

So, first consciousness emerges within the homo genus, (we can argue how later), then we become aware of our surroundings, and because of this we begin to postulate about it and thus little by little become more intelligent as a species. Slowly reaching new levels of consciousness. As early homonids(assuming they were conscious), were only conscious of their small surroundings and thus only had knowledge and some intelligence about that small world of theirs, something like space could never be explained to them because they are not conscious of it's existence and wouldn't know what you were talking about(assuming they understand english of course LOL).

You would have to go step by step, like we do with children. That is why I told Straggler,

Onifre writes,
A baby, yes, a full grown adult, no. Don't misunderstand me here, im not saying that the ability to become MORE conscious isn't there, its just that consciousness(awareness) increases gradually within cultures and societies. Would a person 10,000years ago have the capacity to be as conscious as us YES(assuming a normal sized brain)...but they weren't, thats why they were superstitious.

Catholic Scientist writes,
Our intellignece on the matter of how sound would travel from a fox to our ears does nothing to make us more aware of the fox.

I don't mean aware as in 'visible awareness', like if I turn on the lights I become aware of the coffee table im about to hit. I mean aware as in 'aware of one's self' and that one is located on a planet. That there are other species, some of which we don't even know yet. That we are located within a solar syatem, within a galaxy, within a universe. IOW, awareness of the magnitude of this whole thing. And like I mentioned, we didn't start off knowing that. You can bring someone from 100,000 years ago and assuming for the example that they speak perfect english, can bring them up to spead as long as they are open minded. But imagaine not having a narrator. Imagine having to figue it out alone, as was the case. You have to go step by step, becomeing aware of the reality that you are looking at, and taking the first steps to understanding it, that, IMO, is the emergence of consciousness.


"All great truths begin as blasphemies"

"I smoke pot. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your mouth."--Bill Hicks

"I never knew there was another option other than to question everything"--Noam Chomsky


This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-08-2008 12:38 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 41 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-10-2008 12:34 PM onifre has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 41 of 43 (481311)
09-10-2008 12:34 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by onifre
09-09-2008 8:37 PM


Re: Evolving Consciousness
Here's some definitions of consciousness from dictionary.com:

quote:
1. the state of being conscious; awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.

3. full activity of the mind and senses, as in waking life: to regain consciousness after fainting.

4. awareness of something for what it is; internal knowledge: consciousness of wrongdoing.


You seem to be connecting #1 and #4... (#3 is just being awake).

You're saying that because we're more intelligent, then we are more aware, and thus more conscious.

No no. Im saying since we are a conscious species, (aware of ourselves) not just aware in the sense that bees are aware, we become intelligent.

I can agree to that.

So, first consciousness emerges within the homo genus, (we can argue how later), then we become aware of our surroundings, and because of this we begin to postulate about it and thus little by little become more intelligent as a species. Slowly reaching new levels of consciousness.

Let me add some numbers to your quote:

So, first consciousness (definition #1) emerges within the homo genus, (we can argue how later), then we become aware of our surroundings, and because of this we begin to postulate about it and thus little by little become more intelligent as a species. Slowly reaching new levels of consciousness (definition #4).

I don't think that Anatomically Modern Humans from 10,000 years ago were any less conscious (definition #1) than we are today, but I do agree that they are not as conscious (definition #4).

I thought you were saying that Anatomically Modern Humans from 10,000 years ago were less conscious (definition #1) than we are today. I might have misunderstood you though.

Is that your position?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by onifre, posted 09-09-2008 8:37 PM onifre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 42 by onifre, posted 09-10-2008 12:48 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
onifre
Member (Idle past 1460 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 42 of 43 (481317)
09-10-2008 12:48 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by New Cat's Eye
09-10-2008 12:34 PM


Re: Evolving Consciousness
I thought you were saying that Anatomically Modern Humans from 10,000 years ago were less conscious (definition #1) than we are today.

No, im saying less conscious as with (definition #4).

I think we can conclude from what you wrote here...
CS writes,

quote:
I don't think that Anatomically Modern Humans from 10,000 years ago were any less conscious (definition #1) than we are today, but I do agree that they are not as conscious (definition #4).

...that we are in agreement.

So my position on a raised consciousness would be a raise in (definition #4) type of consciousness. Currently our consciousness has been raised about a micro-world, which that type of consciousness can be perfectly defined with your definition #4, "awareness of something for what it is".


"All great truths begin as blasphemies"

"I smoke pot. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your mouth."--Bill Hicks

"I never knew there was another option other than to question everything"--Noam Chomsky


This message is a reply to:
 Message 41 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-10-2008 12:34 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 43 of 43 (481329)
09-10-2008 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 42 by onifre
09-10-2008 12:48 PM


Re: Evolving Consciousness
Well shit. Now we don't have anything to argue about :(

This message is a reply to:
 Message 42 by onifre, posted 09-10-2008 12:48 PM onifre has not yet responded

  
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