In 1637, Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, wrote: Je pense, donc je suis. (I think, therefore I am.)
People throughout history have always wondered whether their world was real or simply a dream. Descartes’ statement became the foundation for a solution to this dilemma: If one could not doubt that one was doubting, then the existence of self was proven.
The puzzle of a real world versus a world made simply of thoughts cannot be solved so easily.
We take it on faith and on our belief that the findings of all scientific research can only make sense if there is an external real world. Yet, ultimately, we do not know. This puzzle became the puzzle of conscious experience. All of us intuitively believe in conscious experience.
Our entire waking lives support the belief that what we sense, what we see, hear, feel and smell is real. But, what of our dreams?
When we dream, we see, hear, feel and smell, as well. Are our dreams real — with the same reality of our waking experiences? This quandary has pushed many great scientists, not philosophers, to examine that area of life known as: Conscious Experience.
No less a scientist than the famous Francis Crick, of the Nobel Prize winning team of Watson and Crick, the discoverers of DNA and the genetic code, spent the last part of his life trying to unravel the mystery of human conscious experience.
In 1994, Crick published a fascinating book called: The Astonishing Hypothesis. In this book, Crick attempted to outline how neuroscience could find a relationship between our conscious experience and our brain. After all, we know that without a brain a person (or animal) behaves as if there were no external world.
It is axiomatic that the brain is the connection between the external world and our conscious experience of that world. Crick’s sub-title for The Astonishing Hypothesis is: The Scientific Search for the Soul. What Crick wanted to prove was that conscious experience rests, not on something spiritual such as a soul, but on something material, such as a brain.
This conflict of science and philosophy is very intense. Most scientists do not want to admit that there is a spiritual component to life. They dislike the idea that a non-physical component of the universe plays any roll in the evolution of life; because once such an idea is admitted, it leads into the problems of religions and the effects of religions on societies.
However, if there is a spiritual component to life, ignoring its existence will not make it go away.
LIFE VERSUS NON-LIFE
Conscious experience is a manifestation of living things. We experience it and we presume all living things, perhaps including plants and micro-organisms, experience it. We do not believe that non-living things, such as stones, water and air, etc., experience conscious experience.
If we look at life we notice that its PATTERN is different than non-life. Living things follow a pattern of organization. Atoms and Molecules are absorbed by living things and become organized into recognizable patterns that persist while the being is alive.
Once dead, the pattern breaks up and becomes disorganized.
Non living things may have patterns as well, such as clouds and waves, but they become disorganized continuously.
Science has described the non-living universe as a movement towards Entropy or disorganization. Life is a movement towards organization. Life takes energy from the non-living universe and incorporates that energy into new molecules that tend to procreate.
The procreation of molecules and organisms expresses a new element in the universe. Perhaps this new element is spiritual.
UNDERLYING CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE
Since we believe that conscious experience is the key to understanding life, we must determine if there is any factor in conscious experience that makes it unusual.
The one factor that we cannot deny, as Descartes could not deny that he was thinking, is the fact that conscious experience is based on motion or movement. It is inconceivable to imagine the universe without movement.
Perhaps a static universe, one frozen in one instant of time, could exist, but it is not the universe we know. Our universe is based on the arrow of time and our conscious experience recognizes that fact.
The serious question becomes: How do we recognize movement?
EINSTEIN, MOVEMENT AND MATTER
Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 describes the fact that matter is composed of energy times the speed of light squared. The speed of light is described as distance in space along the arrow of time. Therefore, mass is a space change in a period of time. A space change of mass in time is movement.
Mass is simply another term for matter. As a consequence, all matter exists in the dimension of time.
In order for us to recognize movement we have to make a comparison of the past and the present.
If we can only recognize the past or only the present, we cannot experience movement. The comparison of the past, which we call memory with the present, gives us the experience of movement. Since the memory of the past and conscious experience of the present are being compared in the same instant of time, that comparison cannot be made by matter as matter cannot be in two places at the same time.
We must find another dimension for the act of comparison — a dimension that is not space and not time. We can call this new dimension anything we wish, but traditionally any dimension that is not physical is called spiritual.
If we accept this argument, we must conclude that there is a “spiritual” component to conscious experience. Thus, we come full circle to the spiritual area and the probability of a “soul.
As Gottfried Leibniz, the noted German philosopher stated: The soul is the mirror of an indestructible universe.