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At Mind Matters News: Would cognition in bacteria “dethrone” humans?


A cognition researcher’s approach to the question helps account for the growing popularity of panpsychism — as an alternative to hers:

Adelaide University cognition researcher Pamela Lyon offered an interesting thesis at Aeon last month: “Cognition did not appear out of nowhere in ‘higher’ animals but goes back millions, perhaps billions, of years.” Given that several scientists have recently made claims for cognition in single-celled entities, her contention is not all that surprising. But her approach to the topic prompts some thought:

Lyon, who has little time for doubters, invokes Charles Darwin in calling for a “Copernican” shift in thinking on the subject…

Classically, Lyon tells us,

“There is grandeur in this view of life,’ Darwin writes, and he is correct. We can now see ourselves – with scientific justification and with no need for mystical overlay or anthropomorphism – in a daffodil, an earthworm, perhaps even a bacterium, as well as a Chimpanzee. Pamela Lyon, “On the Origin of Minds” at Aeon (October 21, 2020)”

Please. We can see ourselves as a river, a quarter after four, or the embodiment of liberty if we want. But the daffodil, the earthworm, the bacterium can’t see themselves as us — or as anything other than what they are. The chimpanzee may imagine life as a human but that wouldn’t include thinking like a human, which is just what he doesn’t do. To the extent that all these life forms are sentient, they are sentient within their bounds.

Denyse O’Leary, “Would cognition in bacteria “dethrone” humans?” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: Of course we can “see ourselves” as an earthworm. But it doesn’t work in reverse. And Pamela Lyon sheds no light on that fact, apart from denigrating humans.

You may also wish to read: Why panpsychism is starting to push out naturalism. A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work. Panpsychism is not dualism. By including consciousness — including human consciousness — as a bedrock fact of nature, it avoids naturalism’s dead end.

Lyon is more Nietzsche than Darwin. Ubermensch creates unpredictable obstacles to crush the minds and limbs and flowers of Untermensch and Unterdaffodil. Nature doesn't do that. Nature is rigorously predictable and cyclical. polistra

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