Finding it and losing your mind

Where is Mind in Nature

by Jon Lieff

November 24, 2013

Excerpt: “All molecular theories currently have no basis to explain subjective experience.”

Are you losing your mind?

My comment: The complexity of the conserved molecular mechanisms that enable the link from sensory experience to perception makes subjective experience difficult to explain. The problem is not that there is no basis for the explanation. The problem lies in attempts to explain the conserved molecular mechanisms of thermodynamics and organism-level thermoregulation, which are obviously involved in subjective experience. I hope to collaborate with someone in an attempt to make my explanation in “The Mind’s Eyes” easier to understand. LeVay’s summary of my award-winning review could be our starting point.

He wrote: “This model is attractive in that it solves the “binding problem” of sexual attraction. By that I mean the problem of why all the different features of men or women (visual appearance and feel of face, body, and genitals; voice quality, smell; personality and behavior, etc.) attract people as a more or less coherent package representing one sex, rather than as an arbitrary collage of male and female characteristics. If all these characteristics come to be attractive because they were experienced in association with a male- or female-specific pheromone, then they will naturally go together even in the absence of complex genetically coded instructions.” — page 210 Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation.

Why not simply proceed from there with details on finding the mind in nature?  Isn’t the emergence of sex differences and sexual orientation in yeasts a good place to start, since I’ve already linked it to human sex differences and male sexual orientation? Jon Lieff mentions birds, lizards, plants, and viruses. I’ve already covered the similarities in species. I’m not ready to to attribute to them the intelligence typically discussed in terms of human abilities, which include sex differences in human abilities. However, it is clear that our abilities originate in the ability of model organisms to use the molecular mechanisms that enable one signaling pathway to regulates a second pathway that integrates multiple stimuli to produce a coordinated response. In species from microbes to man, the coordinated response involves nutrient uptake and the metabolism of nutrients to species-specific pheromones that control the physiology of reproduction.

I recently posted on the origins of this coordinated response in the influenza virus. A single amino acid substitution alters a receptor and the antigenic properties of the virus. With collaboration, I could rapidly move forward from that starting point to explain how the biophysical constraints of thermodynamically controlled amino acid substitutions and their effect on organism-level thermoregulation affect behavior in unicellular organisms and in multicellular primates. Dobzhansky may have been the first to note the connection from a single amino acid substitution to differences in phenotype between gorillas and humans. In 1973, he wrote “For example, the so-called alpha chains of hemoglobin have identical sequences of amino acids in man and the chimpanzee, but they differ in a single amino acid (out of 141) in the gorilla.” – p 127. What is everyone else waiting for?

We’ve since seen what a single nutrient-dependent amino acid substitution can do to a receptor that differentiates a population of modern humans. All of them appear to have adapted to their environment during the past ~30,000 years. This is not like the speed of adaptations that take place in microbes, but it certainly is much faster that the millions of years that it would take if the differences in this population were the result of mutation-initiated natural selection.


Author: James Kohl

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