Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A Conscious Creeper!

This is a creeper – a plant belonging to the gourd family. As the name suggests, it creeps along gripping at supports like grass or branches of another tree / shrub. The head grows spreading its tentacles that grow rapidly and grip another body for movement. Curiously the head always stays upright and clear of the ground. The thread like tentacle having fine bristles all over it is so sensitive that it behaves like a conscious entity.  It seems like consciously floating its pointed end in order to feel the presence of a support. Upon touching one such thing it would start coiling around it in no time. To make an observation I took my finger near one tentacle and it started coiling around it. I watched all its movements in real time and in about five minutes or so one round was completed.

I started wondering something.

I also come from one such biological entity which during one stage of evolution was a creeper (better call that a crawler or may be a slither). Yes, I am talking of my reptilian past. Science has it that my brain still has the remnants of the reptilian brain. In other words the human brain still has a layer of its brain representing that thing in reptilian head. That is sort of a stamp marked on me certifying that I have evolved and not been created in a sense that a creationist would see. Then I have the mammalian layer in my brain and finally what I am today is the result of much more developed parts of brain. I am conscious, I think, analyse and make decisions. However, under all this lies a primitive brain which was fully functional billion of years back when I was not that conscious.
The plant in my story is neither conscious nor an animal. Yet it behaves nearly as well as any primitive being would do. Being a biological entity it has a genetic makeup similar to mine. I possess a brain and harbour this notion that I am deciding things for myself before doing or acting upon them. This creeper has no such notion but goes on doing what it must under the terms of evolution. And what are those terms? Be, beget and begone. That is what Nature wants of us; brain or no brain.

Standing there by the creeper I whipped the horses of my imagination to fly into future when the tiny head, now non-consciously spreading its tentacles might have the privilege of securing a brain like the one I have today. Then it would be boasting of spreading its tentacles consciously and with volition, even competing with other creepers to grab stronger and safer supports.  But, will it be really acting consciously - a conscious creeper?  


At Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:31:00 PM , Blogger രവിചന്ദ്രന്‍ സി said...

Brilliant observation sir. Really liked reading it

At Wednesday, August 01, 2012 7:21:00 PM , Blogger R K SUDAN said...

Thanks Prof Pillai.

At Wednesday, August 01, 2012 10:10:00 PM , Blogger Mojoey said...


At Wednesday, August 01, 2012 11:53:00 PM , Blogger Herbert Peters said...

1. Consciousness is a part of our survival instinct?
2. How do we increase our interests? By enlightening our self interests?
3. By analogy, this creeper is continuously learning. Finding new support to grow or go further. Are we humans that conscious about growing in new directions?

At Thursday, August 02, 2012 1:03:00 PM , Blogger R K SUDAN said...

Thanks Joe and Herbert.

At Thursday, August 02, 2012 4:27:00 PM , Blogger R K SUDAN said...

Let me say here, Herbert, that the survival instinct is genetically hard wired (remember fear) into our brains and in other animals as well. Consciousness is always a post action phenomenon. To cite a case in point, when we face a danger our brain reacts by releasing certain chemicals into the system in order to strengthen it and then prompt the native to a ‘flight or fight’ action. That is instinctual. Another case is when someone loses a limb in an accident. It has been reported that the victims of some tragic accidents were up to a certain period of time unaware of having lost a part of their body, though they were conscious. The brain had automatically shut down a sensory route. No consciousness was involved in either of the above cases.

Yes, being conscious we get wider choices including those for our long term survival. We think we can consciously select options not only for our survival but for other activities of life as well. However, every conscious decision / action of ours has a non-conscious cause at its root.

How we increase our interests? Well, once again a function of our developed brain. Let me start with the very basic reptilian or a primitive mammalian brain. That type of brain is genetically programmed for survival and procreation purposes. Call that interest or, when the gamut of the activity increases, greed. With our highly evolved brains we have widened the sphere of activity that we call our interests.

Learning is another basic characteristic built by evolutionary process into our genes. Learning has a mimetic aspect too, for example some people belonging to a particular area or environment are better adopted to quickly learn certain new skills. That’s an adaptation but the basic learning instinct is hardwired into all of us. We do learn, consciously or unconsciously.

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