Math Buddha's Blather

Uh, I don't know, just read it and see for yourself.

Friday, July 01, 2005

More pointless verbiage

Consider a proton. A small bundle of mass and electrical charge. Those are its only properties of note. Several protons might get together with some neutrons and protons to form, say, an oxygen atom. Oxygen has the mass of all of those particles, and the charge is the sum of its parts. But it now has a shape of sorts as well. It has electron orbitals. As oxygen, this atom has certain chemical properties. At standard temperature and pressure, it is a gas. It's very reactive and likes to combine with most anything to form compounds. You could describe that as its motivation. Combine a few oxygens, some hydrogens and some carbons and you might form glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar, and stores considerable chemical energy in a very efficient package, which is why it's the primary fuel for our bodies. But what makes it up? You could count the number of protons, electrons, and neutrons in a glucose molecule. All of the properties of glucose result from its particular arrangement of those building blocks, the same gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak attractions and repulsions that motivate all of its tiny constituents. Does a proton in such a construct regard or have any knowledge of the whole? Is the molecule "aware" of the needs of its protons?

Moving up further, a large bundle of sugars, proteins, cholesterols, nucleic acids, et cetera often becomes a cell. A muscle cell say. What properties are now present? Through the coding of the genetic material in the nucleus, the cell knows how to replicate itself, how to breathe, and how to react to being stimulated by a neuron. When the signal comes down the line, the cell pulls. Does it know what it is pulling? Does it think about how it pulls? Does it even know that in breathing, it is shuffling ATP and ADP back and forth? And what do these muscle cells form? A human heart perhaps? What might the heart's scope of awareness be? It is, in fact, little more than a fluid pump. As the signals come in from the brain, it squeezes and releases, endlessly. Does the heart know what a foot is? Does the heart understand the Krebs Cycle that powers each cell that the heart pumps blood past, including the heart muscle itself? Does the heart, as an organ, know it's own genetic matrix?

At this organizational level, more complicated questions arise. When food is deposited in the stomach, the stomach kicks into gear to digest, requiring more blood for more power. But suppose you go for a jog after dinner. The stomach may not receive enough blood to digest the food efficiently. If digestion is inadequate, the stomach sends out a pain signal to the brain, warning that the system is out of balance. Meantime, the various smooth muscles on the arteries and veins continue to route blood to the legs for running power. The brain must choose between these two demands. These sorts of conflicts go on in our bodies all of the time.

What does the stomach "know"? Does it know that it is made up of water molecules, proteins, et cetera? Is it merely aware of the chemical makeup of its contents in a crude way, by enzyme action? Does the stomach have any concept of what a pancreas is? Or indeed even of where the food goes after it pumps it out? Or where food comes from?

All of these organs and systems constitute a human. But what does this human know? What does this human want? Can it be only one thing? Or fifty? Doesn't each of the countless sub-elements have its own agenda? All of the demands of gravity, chemical attraction, organ function et cetera clamor for attention constantly. Do these demands understand each other? Are they even aware of each other?

Considering all this, when a proud human stand up and declares "I", what does this represent?


At 11:20 AM, Blogger theCallowQueen said...

And though humans are granted with this ability to reason, to be self-aware. We lack the ability to order around the majority of our parts. We cannot tell the stomach to stop digestion. We cannot order our heart to send more blood to the stomach. We do not know when the chemical production in our brain changes. We are so unobservant. For self-proclaimed self-aware humans, we have very little control over ourselves.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Big-Bold-D said...

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At 1:14 PM, Blogger Big-Bold-D said...

Can we not? And do we not?

At 12:28 PM, Blogger YellowDancer21 said...

Add to all this confusion the idea of a soul--which I believe in, but don't think you do--and then the body can be seen as something more like a machine that allows us to function in the constraints of this world. Getting a little too spiritual?

But, you know, sometimes physics turns its head the other way and you can get by with things like flying, so, in that case, I'm going to imagine that my body parts are aware of themselves. My heart says "I'm damn tired." (I occasionly worry about my heart feeling tired) and my stomach often says, "What the hell did you just shove into me?! I'm gonna be sick." That comment's often followed by my intestines saying, "Oh, now you've done it! You went and pissed off the stomach and now we've got to clean up the mess."

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Big-Bold-D said...

Ah, but what is the soul? Is the idea of the soul necessary? What does this hypothesis explain that cannot be explained by the interaction of our many parts? Is the brain not an organ of the body? Then I suppose there might be room for a soul in there somewhere, too, but might the soul as well be merely an organ of the body?

At 9:41 AM, Blogger YellowDancer21 said...

Who says a soul has to be a specific type of matter we understand? What if it's something seperate from the physicality of our bodies?

What if (said in Wesley Crusher voice) its simply out of phase with the universe or stuck in a time distortion wave loop spatial anomaly?

Don't take this too seriously...I'm weird. ;)

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Big-Bold-D said...

Possibly, possibly... but what then? Does the soul have any properties that we can understand? Does the soul interact with matter? Energy? Is the mechanism of this interaction understandable? Does the soul have location? Dimensions? Is my soul "within" me? Does it come with me as I move about? What basis does our discussion of the soul have? I realize that these particular questions have been asked many many times before, but I have never heard any satisfactory answers. Have you?

At 4:42 PM, Blogger G-man said...

Does the flower know the importance of the bee. Does the bee know the importance of the tree. All things are separate yet they are in harmony.

Hi, BBD :)

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Big-Bold-D said...

you're a dork, g-man

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh. I missed out on a very important discussion... Che.

At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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