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Theories of mind and consciousness: Intellectual apartheid

Posted on May 25, 2013 by James Kohl.

From the psychiatry research yahoo group: Fascinating things.

One of the fascinating things about theories of mind and consciousness is that they almost invariably speak in terms of sensory experience, usually visual and spatial.

JK: This is fascinating because there is no direct link from visual input to gene activation in hormone-secreting nerve cells in tissue in the brain, which is required to link sensory input directly to our behavior. Thus, instead of looking at our embodied cognition as if it adaptively evolved via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction, people almost invariably look at theories of mind and consciousness as if our consciousness automagically appeared and set us apart from the reality of biologically based nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution. How did we somehow become primarily visual creatures? This question represents an “intellectual apartheid” that must be revisited.

Excerpt from Evolving the Future (in press, with my emphasis) “The reception to E.O. Wilson’s 1975 book Sociobiology provides an example of this intellectual apartheid. The purpose of Sociobiology was to show that a single science of social behavior could apply to all species, from microbes, to insects, to primates. It was celebrated a triumph except for the final chapter on humans, which created a storm of controversy (Segerstrale 2001).”

Similarly, the reception to my model of adaptive evolution indicates an unending storm of controversy (or simple-minded ignorance), despite details that led to my conclusion: “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.” Thirty-eight years after “Sociobiology” and Wilson’s attempt “…to show that a single science of social behavior could apply to all species…” we still have the blind acceptance of theories that cannot apply to all species because not all species have eyes. Thus, the mind-blind theorists continue to lead those who remain blinded by their ridiculous opinions about cause and effect. It’s as if we evolved eyes to see only to have our Mind’s Eyes regress as did the eyes of blind cave fish.

We might just as well return to the caves of our theoretical origins and live in the dark as to “…speak in terms of sensory experience, usually visual and spatial.” No other organism on earth would do that, even if it could tell ridiculous stories about how it adaptively evolved. Its conspecifics would simply laugh if they had ears to hear about such nonsense, and wonder “out-loud” if they had voices about how anyone could express such a blindly foolish view of life, when all organisms must acquire nutrients to live and pheromones must control their reproduction for their species to survive.

It is not the visual appeal of food, nor is it the visual appeal of a mate, that drives the molecular mechanisms of adaptive evolution in “…species, from microbes, to insects, to primates…” It’s olfactory/pheromonal input that does this, which is why I concluded that “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.

Other fascinating things (2004): “One of the fascinating things that came out of this study was that the genetic variation in acetaminophen toxicity is not what all of the toxicologists would have predicted in the first place,” said study co-author Ken Paigen, Ph.D., Jackson Laboratory executive research fellow. “CD44 doesn’t have anything to do with the rate of metabolism of the drug, but it does have something to do with the immune response.” The mammalian olfactory system(s) and immune system(s) share common molecular mechanisms, which also are found in unicellular organisms.

Other fascinating things (2009): “One of the fascinating things was that the female responses to sexual images were fast and automatic,” said Dr. Chivers, who is now at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. “The fact that they were not always aware speaks to there being other factors involved like emotion and psychological influences.

In the same post to psychiatry research, we read that “Seeking out different immune-system genes might be a way to prevent inbreeding or to arm offspring with a more versatile immune system, said Dr. Rachel S. Herz, a psychologist at Brown who in a study in 2002 found that women ranked body odor above almost every other factor in attraction, except “pleasantness.”

Those who continue to “almost invariably speak in terms of sensory experience, usually visual and spatial” are among those who continue the “intellectual apartheid” of the past. The fascinating thing about this form of “intellectual apartheid” is that it appears to be part of a never-ending story.



James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl

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