Robert J. Marks: We have been talking about your book, and I wanted to talk some more about it. You have one chapter, “The Thinking Piece” and another one, “The Memory Piece.” And in there, you trace from one-cell organisms to humans. Can you kind of unpack that and give us some examples that highlight these capabilities?
Geoffrey Simmons: I’d be glad to. As I mentioned a little earlier on the previous podcast, we do see animals and all kinds of organisms having some ability that smacks of thinking. And indeed you can expose bacteria to something scary and a light or anything like that and then show that to their offspring, which are not offspring in the sense that we think of it, and they will go away from it.
Note: In his recent book, Miracle of the Cell (2020), biochemist Michael Denton notes that cells can do a variety of things without anything like a brain. For example, gut pest E coli is “adept at counting molecules of specific sugars, amino acids, or dipeptides… comparing counts taken over the recent and not so recent past” (p. 17). Bacteria, deprived of food, can solve problems that have stumped computers —again, without a brain. We don’t know how they do it.
Geoffrey Simmons: Now, is that thinking or what is that? … We see that with a lot of problem-solving, monkeys using tools, monkeys using mechanisms to get places like a stick for a cane or through water, getting across a creek, in other words, problem-solving, coming up with something novel to solve a problem.News, “Why a Science fiction writer thinks life is more than just matter” at Mind Matters News
Nature is full of intelligence. The researcher who is looking for a world that does not show intelligent design is looking for a different planet.
See also: Part I: Should robots, instead of humans, go into space? They might be better at life in space than humans. But could they be counselors too? Geoffrey Simmons, a retired internist and science fiction author, discusses genuine health risks for humans from long term space travel with Robert J. Marks.