All of us “consciously” use the word “self” and yet both self and consciousness proved to be elusive to science1-4
so much so that some argue5
that consciousness/life have no physical basis. Consciousness has been and remained the subject of philosophy. In the recent times Hameroff and Penrose brought consciousness into serious discussion among scientific community mainly neuro scientists. Thus attempts are being made to study consciousness by studying brain. Consciousness begins as self awareness that is being aware of one’s own self. But what is self?
We are aware of our selves through the sensory input to our brain and the brain creates/generates a mental image of ourselves probably via mechanisms such as orchor1
. The brain is matter and the mental image is not. While brain is material the mental image is virtual both belonging to the same “self” of an individual. Sum of all mental images of an individual form his mind. Thus the self is in two states first the brain in physical state and the other the mind in virtual state.
Then what is mind? Is it simply an image just like our own image in a mirror? There are situations where the role of mind can be perceived as distinct from the brain (neo-cortex). The study6
of placebo effect is one such case. For example 70% of people in treatment group (suffering from depression) get better after they are administered with an anti depressant drug which causes a change in the brain chemistry. If one looks at the control (matching) group (also suffering from depression) 35% get better, who were administered just with placebo (an inert sugar pill). Both groups are unaware of what they were given. While treatment group was given the actual medicine, the control group was given just hope which cured 35% of the patients. What should we conclude? Mere hope can cure 35% while medicine may cure another 35% and hence 70% in the treatment group got better. Placebo is an effect of hope, i.e. positive psychology (thinking).
Hope (the will to survive) belongs to mind. It is said6
that placebo effect is associated with an increase in the endorphin level. Thus the mind, an abstract thing can cause a change in the brain chemistry. The point is that brain has ”self healing” property/capacity (or self ordering/programming property) and this property is Mind. Thus the self image created by the brain is not same as image in a mirror. Mind and Brain interact/ communicate with each other which cause self awareness. A system to be aware of it self must exist in two separate states that can sense/interact/communicate with each other and work in tandem.
Quantum Self Awareness
At quantum level even matter particles appear to be conscious or self aware satisfying the criteria, “A system to be aware of it self must exist in two separate states that can sense/interact/communicate with each other and act in tandem”. In the double slit experiment an electron wave passes through both the slits generating two out going wave packets. Ronald Bryan explains7
,“Clearly the physical electron cannot be in both waves at once; yet quantum theory permits the electron’s wave function to coexist in these two physically incompatible states at once. When two waves hit the detectors, the physical electron will appear in one detector or the other. Quantum mechanics cannot tell us which one”. Coexistence of these two out going electron waves suggests that they might be aware of each other. Bryan further explains, “So a quantum mechanical wave is more ephemeral” and “an idea”.
Thus one of the waves passing through the double slit is physical while the other virtual. Comparing this with brain and mind we come to the question if the mind and self awareness are also ephemeral.
The Real Self
Sekhar has been arguing8,9
for the genomic consciousness based on the thermodynamic state of the genome of higher organism for example the existence of higher percent of A-T pairs which are less favored thermodynamically. We know that genome contains repeated genes. And we also know that genes act as complexes and net works which means that genes communicate among themselves. A gene and its exact replica can communicate. The capacitor like intra electronic structure allows us to think that a gene can sense the other particularly its replica which indeed can make a gene and its replica “self aware”. Importantly the gene, its replica and other genes in the complex/network/genome are physical. Thus the genome not only satisfies the criteria “A system to be aware of it self must exist in two separate states that can sense/interact/communicate with each other and act in tandem” for self awareness/consciousness but also the two separate states are physical unlike brain [physical] and mind [virtual] and this leads to the conclusion that the genomic self say “i” is the real self and is the origin of self awareness/consciousness.
A “system” to be aware of it self must exist in two inter communicating/interacting/ sensing states
that can act in tandem. Genome eminently satisfies the criteria for self awareness in physical terms. Hence genome is the originator of self awareness in physical terms and hence is the real self of living systems.
The brain generated “self”/consciousness is ephemeral.
Gerald M. Edelman, Naturalizing Consciousness: A theoretical framework, PNAS, Vol. 100, No. 9, April 29, 2003.
Arnold Trehub, Space, self, and the theater of consciousness, Consciousness and Cognition, doi:10.1016/j.concog.2006.06.004
Dunn, J. R., Re-Introducing the Soul : The Medical Vs the Psychotherapeutic Model : An Interview with Elio Frattaroli Psychology Online Journal, The American Institute of Psychology and Health, Vol. 11, No. 12. 2001.
Sekhar, DMR, genomic consciousness, In “The Philosophy of Evolution”, (Transcience Transactions Vol.1. Eds.UVS Rana,K.Srinivas,NC Aery, AK Purohit), Yash Publishing House, Bikaner, India, 2010.
Sekhar, DMR, Genopsych: A coinage in the foundry of Biology, (Transcience Transactions Vol.2, Ed. AK Purohit) Scientific publishers, Jodhpur, India, 2011.