Originally posted by apathist
I'd like to hear from anyone with anything to say about pantheism, whether for, against, or sideways.
While I'm comfortable, given my society and culture, being labeled an atheist, I do believe there is more going on than just atoms bouncing around (physics cannot explain mind). I find it wonderful that a bunch of cells (especially neuron cells) can giv ...[text shortened]... minds. Are you not a god to the cells of your body? Who knows how many levels of gods there are?
"I find it wonderful that a bunch of cells (especially neuron cells) can give rise to a consciousness."
There is something that speaks to this at
An ant hill, Aunt Hillary, exhibits consciousness and communicates via ant trails.
Picking up midway:
ANTEATER: Silly fellow! That's not the way it happens. Ant colonies don't converse out loud, but in writing. You know how ants form trails leading them hither and thither?
ACHILLES: Oh, yes-usually straight through the kitchen sink and into my peach jam.
ANTEATER: Actually, some trails contain information in coded form. If you know the system, you can read what they're saying just like a book.
ACHILLES: Remarkable. And can you communicate back to them?
ANTEATER: Without any trouble at all. That's how Aunt Hillary and I have conversations for hours. I take a stick and draw trails in the moist ground, and watch the ants follow my trails. Presently, a new trail starts getting formed somewhere. I greatly enjoy watching trails develop. As they are, forming, I anticipate how they will continue (and more often I am wrong than right). When the trail is -completed, I know what Aunt Hillary is thinking, and I in turn make my reply.
ACHILLES: There must be some amazingly smart ants in that colony, I'll say that.
ANTEATER: I think you are still having some difficulty realizing the difference in levels here. Just as you would never confuse an individual tree with a forest, so here you must not take an ant for the colony. You see, all the ants in Aunt Hillary are as dumb as can be. They couldn't converse to save their little thoraxes!
ACHILLES: Well then, where does the ability to converse come from? It must reside somewhere inside the colony! I don't understand how the ants can all be unintelligent, if Aunt Hillary can entertain you for hours with witty banter.
TORTOISE: It seems to me that the situation is not unlike the composition of a human brain out of neurons. Certainly no one would insist that individual brain cells have to be intelligent beings on their own, in order to explain the fact that a person can have an intelligent conversation.
ACHILLES: Oh, no, clearly not. With brain cells, I see your point completely. Only ... ants are a horse of another color. I mean, ants just roam about at will, completely randomly, chancing now and then upon a morsel of food.... They are free to do what they want to do, and with that freedom, I don't see at all how their behavior, seen as a whole, can amount to anything coherent-especially something so coherent as the brain behavior necessary for conversing.
CRAB: It seems to me that the ants are free only within certain constraints. For example, they are free to wander, to brush against each other, to pick up small items, to work on trails, and so on. But they never step out of that small world, that ant-system, which they are in. It would never occur to them, for they don't have the mentality to imagine anything of the kind. Thus the ants are very reliable components, in the sense that you can depend on them to perform certain kinds of tasks in certain ways.
ACHILLES: But even so, within those limits they are still free, and they just act at random, running about incoherently without any regard for the thought mechanisms of a higher-level being which Dr. Anteater asserts they are merely components of.
ANTEATER: Ah, but you fail to recognize one thing, Achilles-the regularity of statistics.
ACHILLES: How is that?
ANTEATER: For example, even though ants as individuals wander about in what seems a random way, there are nevertheless overall trends, involving large numbers of ants, which can emerge from that chaos.
ACHILLES: Oh, I know what you mean. In fact, ant trails are a perfect example of such a phenomenon. There, you have really quite unpredictable motion on the part of any single ant-and yet, the trail itself seems to remain well defined and stable. Certainly that must mean that the individual ants are not just running about totally at random.
ANTEATER: Exactly, Achilles. There is some degree of communication among the ants, just enough to keep them from wandering off completely at random. By this minimal communication they can remind each other that they are not alone but are cooperating with teammates. It takes a large number of ants, all reinforcing each other this way, to sustain any activity-such as trail building-for any length of time. Now my very hazy understanding of the operation of brains leads me to believe that something similar pertains to the firing of neurons. Isn't it true, Mr. Crab, that it takes a group of neurons firing in order to make another neuron fire?