Consciousness came before life

Consciousness came before life

Stuart Hameroff, Anirban Bandyopadhyay, and Dante Lauretta writes:

Most scientists and philosophers believe that life came before consciousness. Life appeared on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago; consciousness and feelings, it’s said, evolved later due to complex biological information processing, perhaps only recently in brains with language and tool-making abilities. In fact, though, there’s good reason to think that consciousness preceded life, and was central to making life and evolution possible.

What is life? It is often described as its functions: metabolism, adaptation, reproduction, etc. But non-biological systems can have similar functions, for example, oceanic hydrothermal vents can metabolize, transform energy and synthesize chemicals, weather and climate systems adapt to changes in solar radiation, volcanic activity, and other natural factors, and a seed crystal in a solution can lead to the formation of more crystals with the same lattice structure, essentially reproducing itself. In the 19th century “vitalists” proposed life was a living field, force, or élan vital, but vitalism was eclipsed by molecular biology and genetics.

Erwin Schrödinger suggested that a form of “quantum vitalism” accounted for life’s unitary oneness, and Herbert Fröhlich later proposed that quantum coherent vibrational modes, similar to those in a laser, could play a central role in various biological processes (“Fröhlich coherence”). The idea is that in a crystal-like structure, laser-like coherent vibrations could be driven by small random changes in temperature or energy.

This was proven by Anirban Bandyopadhyay’s group for biological microtubules – self-assembling cylindrical lattice polymers of the protein tubulin. Microtubules dynamically organize the interiors of all animal and plant cells, as part of the cell’s structural cytoskeleton, and appear also to serve as its nervous system and memory bank. [Continue reading…]


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