Did life come to earth from another planet? But what explains the origins of alien life – what accounts for the birth of life in the universe? Are planetary environments enough to explain its emergence? Can its evolution explain its existence? Does life belong to the physical fabric of the universe, or does the universe ‘come to life’ because of possibilities in addition? And what makes us believe that possibility becomes explicable by observing its incidence? Indeed, putting all the theories to one side, do we actually know where the answers might come from – or lead us?
There are alternative ways to look at the evidence. Perhaps life manifests properties that differ from its non-living causes, which ‘become alive’; or the causes are inherently prepotent, though ‘in the event’ the ‘possibility of life’ depends upon the environmental triggers. Then does it mean that life is a latent property of its preconditions in the physical world – that like a Pinocchio, it is already in situ, just waiting to be carved out? And what makes us believe that life would be explicable if only we could observe the transition from the non-living to the living?
Is consciousness an illusion generated by the brain? But how would we know it without the overview that enables our recognition? So consciousness ‘looks on’. And there can be no scientific discoveries without a sentient faculty of realisation. Hence the dawning of awareness heralds a new kind of reality in which facts become identified as perceptual objects. Likewise, self-awareness marks a new kind of realisation – evocative of ‘a self’ as the object of its own perception.
However, reality is not necessarily limited to that which is framed by perception. And there is something odd about the nature of self-discovery because it involves the perception of facts that had hitherto escaped recognition – even when the recognisable element of such facts obtains imaginatively of the subjective realisations of insight. Then what of science’s embrace of an ‘objective reality’ of things natural – is it inclusive enough to show that scientific knowledge represents nature’s insight into itself?
Think about it – a cause of consciousness. What does it mean? Does it mean that the cause is operative in the identification of itself? Or does it mean that the cause and effect work in some kind of relationship brought about by a difference occasioning an interaction?
But how are we to identify a difference without a point of comparison that is particular to the nature of consciousness? And how can the observation of parallel changes in the operations of consciousness and its physical support processes prove sufficient to explain any differences or show that they are one and the same thing?
Will systematic organ replacement do the job? Or even a head transplant? Do we need to remain biological, or could synthetic body parts take over? Setting aside the ‘hardware’ questions, would it be sufficient to transfer the memory into a suitable receptor – real or artificial? Ultimately, could we liberate ourselves from our physical encumbrances? Might this constitute some form of rebirth – or should we accept our lot and patiently await the redemptive intervention of an insuperable supernatural presence? In any case, is it immoral to cheat death? Is it not ethically appropriate to strive for self-improvement, both physical and mental and isn’t modern technology a benign means to a desirable end?
But do these scenarios use up all the options? Are we definable by our embodiments? If not, by what extra-bodily capacity are we able to recognise the difference? And isn’t our brand of intentional action something alien to nature? Also, doesn’t consciousness introduce a real difference that is neither evident in the stark biology nor definable by what we happen to be conscious of? Likewise, what if there is more to us than a life we can call our own? Then what if we are more than a personality forged by circumstance – because personal being transcends our individuality and we retain the flexibility to be more than we can become in any number of biological lives?
Consciousness is bigger than anything we can set-up in consciousness as the form of our awareness.
We are certain that we are conscious and yet we cannot discern its nature in any preconscious state of nature. Nor can we prove that such preconscious states relate to the fact of consciousness without relying implicitly on the very fact we are trying to establish explicitly in terms of those other facts. In other words, we can know the essential nature of consciousness only from within and must start from that knowledge in order to assess any fact about its nature and origin.
Furthermore, every time we probe the form of our consciousness in order to find out something new about it we alter the state of our awareness in the wake of our discovery – we generate a new state of consciousness, so ensuring that there is always something new to learn. And if, as it would seem, consciousness remains bigger than any fact we can determine about it, then our awareness of that paradoxical fact holds the key to expanding our horizons.
Is it possible for a tiny dot of consciousness in a corner of a physical universe to add anything significant to it? Can we say consciousness belongs to the physical because it belongs in the physical? Do we not diminish the change to mental existence in assuming that nothing has really changed because consciousness doesn’t make a ‘real’ difference to the physical facts? Can we measure the whole of existence by the standards of the physical? But what is the alternative? What gives us cause to think there is something other than the physical in the first place? What gives us cause to think of the physical as an external reality?
It seems that we can’t perceive anything without adopting a perspective that sets up a difference between perceiver and perceived. And even doubting our originality as perceivers, by seeing ourselves as a subset of a larger nature, cannot dilute the categorical change that leads to that nature doubting itself. In other words, the reality of the world with sentience is more than the supposed greater reality of a world without. So to adopt a view on the physical, as a whole, requires a starting point in perception as something else. And if perception is another ‘thing’, even in our imagination, we still have grounds for accepting it as something more than we suppose to perceive as existing without. Thus the universe is a wholly bigger place than we can discover or explain in terms of its physical roots, or perceptions of ourselves as physically grounded.
In short, we think, therefore we know there is more to existence than a nature we can suppose to exist without thought, in the supposed pervasiveness of its stark physicality. Otherwise there is no discernible difference to give cause to look and explore, or means to deny.