THE SCIENTIFIC CONNECTION
Three presuppositions form the basis for the system of thought presented in this paper. The internal logic of this system of thought can neither prove nor disprove the truth of these three presuppositions. Instead, these three major premises serve as the legs of a conceptual tripod on which to develop this system of thought. This system of thought provides the fundamental foundation for a complete understanding of bodily resurrection and the transfiguration of human consciousness. foundation
The first premise relates to the ontological nature of a human being. It presupposes that any ontological concept, relating to the existence of an individual is a subset of an ontogenetic concept that addresses the biological development of the individual’s central nervous system. It further postulates that only through the electrical impulses, resulting from electrochemical activity within the central nervous system can any phenomena associated with being alive; that is, any fact or knowledge that derives from external stimulation of the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch be experienced. Rodolfo Llinás, a noted neuroscientist at the New York University School of Medicine stated in an interview, “I think consciousness is the sum of perceptions, which you must put together as a single event. . . . We are just the sum total of activity of neurons.” 1 To support this proposition consider how the removal of the central nervous system, consisting of only the brain and spinal cord, from a body would deny that body any experience of being a ‘thing in itself’. Even with a supply of oxygenated blood circulated by a mechanical heart and other physiological requirements met completely, the body would still be clinically dead. However, the actual state of the disembodied central nervous system is more problematic. In fact one could argue that if the necessary “life supporting” environment could be maintained while correctly simulating the required external stimulation of the five senses, the disembodied central nervous system might actually experience some type of unrecognizable awareness. At sometime in the future, with sufficient knowledge, enough technical refinement, and a total understanding of neural mapping it might be possible to stimulate a disembodied central nervous system to a level that results in some cognition of being alive.
The second premise presupposes that the central nervous system is a phenomenon of the material universe and that it evolved to enable its cellular host to move within two or more spatial dimensions of the universe. In his interview, Rodolfo Llinás explained how:
Anything that moves actively requires a nervous system; otherwise, it would come to a quick death. . . . It seems to be about moving in a more or less intelligent way. The more elaborate the system, the more intelligent the movement. . . . In order to predict you have to have, at the very least, a simple image inside that tells you something about the purpose of the outside world. That is common to all nervous systems of all forms that we know of. . . . This is basically what consciousness is about—putting all this relevant stuff there is outside one’s head inside, making an image with it, and deciding what to do. . . . The brain, when awake, is continually generating a picture of the outside world. When new information from the outside comes in it has to be put into context with whatever else was happening just before.”2
Implicit in the premise, however, is the recognition that the individuals cannot study through experience the entire structure of their nervous system. The self-referencing aspect of the individual's nervous system prevents that individual from acquiring a complete and empirical knowledge of it. A complete understanding of the detailed structure would entail a procedure so invasive as to destroy major components of that system; thus, rendering the individual incapable of experiencing any phenomena. However, the nervous system as a phenomenon of the material universe is still susceptible to scientific description and explanation. As an actual object located in space-time, it most likely will follow the same physical laws applicable to similar systems in the universe. An inference of this second premise is that invariant principles of electromagnetic energy apply to the electrochemical processes associated with the human nervous system. Rudolfo Llinás expands on the electromagnetic description of the nervous system:
The cells in the brain, like the heart, have intrinsic rhythm. They move, they oscillate, like the waves in the ocean at a certain speed, a certain velocity, a certain frequency. Cells can have different frequencies. They can oscillate very slowly, and when that happens consciousness disappears. . . . Cells are negatively charged; they are negative with respect to the outside world, by about 60 to 70 millivolts. If the membrane potential, the voltage across the membrane of the cells, is modified so it becomes a little less negative, the rhythm of the cells changes. They wake up. They oscillate at a high frequency. . . . That’s how cells control consciousness—by voltage, by becoming electrically inactive or active. If you take a drug, if you fall asleep, if you hit your head, the brain does not generate the functional state that is you. The you [emphasis mine] disappears.3
inference, far more enigmatic than the first, is that the principles of special
relativity as derived by Albert Einstein in 1905 and shortly after Nietzsche's
death have profound implications for understanding the functionality of the
human nervous system. Special relativity revealed the concepts of an absolute
space and an absolute time to be simply an illusionary construct. A better
understanding of time and space is that they actually form a combined manifold
of space-time. Each moment in time is
more analogous to a separate page in a book than it is to the common sense
notion of moments of time flowing
like water in a river. Professor of physics and mathematics at
The overarching lesson that has emerged from scientific inquiry over the last century is that human experience is often a misleading guide to the true nature of reality. Lying just beneath the surface of the everyday world is a world we’d hardly recognize. . . . Over the last three centuries, developments in physics have revealed space and time as the most baffling and most compelling concepts and as those most instrumental in our scientific analysis of the universe. Such developments have also shown that space and time top the list of age-old scientific constructs that are being fantastically revised by cutting-edge research.4
When viewed as material objects in the universe, every particle within an individual's nervous system has a trajectory through the continuum of space-time that extends across that individual's life cycle or lifetime. This integrated path represents the temporal history of every particle in an individual's central nervous system. These histories then form a continuum of events in space-time. The instantaneous position and momentum of each particle totally defines its state in the universe at that moment. These two quantities, even if not precisely known, establish the limits of discernible knowledge with respect to the ontological state of that given particle in the universe. These two quantities, describing as they do the present location and the rate at which that location is changing, constitute a temporal ‘state space’ for each particle, an illusionary present in the space-time continuum of each particle.
Neuroscientists have discovered that much of the activity that takes place in the human nervous system consists of electrical and chemical signaling from neuron to neuron. All perceptions and interpretations of phenomena are a result of this activity. "That is, they [neurons or nerve cells] would generate electrical impulses called action potentials that would ultimately cause the cells to release neurotransmitters [particles or ions] across synapses [gaps in the nerve cells], igniting more impulses in other neurons."5 “One set of neurons talks to another set of neurons, and they talk back,” explains Rudolfo Llinás in his interview with Lauren Aguirre, “so we have a dialogue between different components in the brain. And the dialogue is not between one cell and another cell, but rather between many cells and many other cells.”6 A recent experiment, in which sensory neurons and Schwann glial cells of mice were prepared in a lab culture containing calcium ions, illustrated this behavior. In the experiment done by Douglas Fields and his colleague, Beth Stevens they observed that:
A slight voltage applied to the neurons prompted them to fire action potentials down axons . . . , and the neurons immediately lit up . . . , indicating they had opened channels on their membranes to allow calcium to flow inside. Twelve seconds later . . . , as the neurons continued to fire, Schwann cells began to light up, indicating they had begun taking in calcium in response to the signals traveling down the axons. Eighteen seconds after that . . . , more glia had lit up, because they had sensed the signals. The series shows that glia tap into neuronal messages all along the lines of communication, not just at synapses where neurotransmitters are present.7
This activity appears analogous to the electromagnetic field that surrounds a conducting wire whenever an electrical impulse is traveling through it. As action potentials traverse a neural pathway of neurons, the electromagnetic fields that are associated with those potentials will trace a path through space and time because the nervous system itself is an event in space-time. This intra-neural communication between neurons is dependent on time and parallels directly any other data processing activity in the universe. In the processing of a given amount of data per unit of time, the central nervous system links itself functionally into the continuum of space and time; however, the discrete nature of synaptic activity also guarantees that a certain level of space-time discreteness will characterize that data processing. When asked during his interview to explain how the brain coordinated all these different neurons communicating, Rodolfo Llamas answered:
It’s like having a huge number of people holding hands, dancing together, making ever-changing circles and organized together in such a way that every cell belongs, at some time, to some circle. It’s like a huge square dance. Each dancer belongs to a particular movement at a particular time [emphasis mine].8
These constantly changing patterns of interconnectivity between neurons in the human brain represent human thought to the cosmos. They encode our cognition, emotion, motivation, and memories into the space-time continuum. These instantaneous configurations of neurons, each nerve cell dancing in rhythm with other cells throughout the central nervous system generate the instantaneous and discrete functional states that are us—each of us. Each of these discrete functional states encodes our will to be and our will to live at that particular location in the vastness of the space-time continuum.
The continuously increasing thermodynamic entropy of the universe imposes a localized arrow of time on these functional states. This arrow of time allows us to remember the past, but not the future. Information associated with subsequent synaptic patterns will always replace or update the information associated with previous patterns. The illusion of flowing time may likely have its source in this asymmetry in human memory. In reality, our memory of the moment before and our anticipation of the moment after, eternally bounds every present moment we experience. As a result, we live in the present, but do so eternally. As Nietzsche writes, "An illusion that we, utterly caught up in it and consisting of it—as a continuous becoming in time, space and causality, in other words—are required to see as empirical reality."9
In his recent
article in Scientific American, Carl
Zimmer quotes psychologist Todd Heatherton of
The possibility of such a reality, when viewed as an interlocutor between the currently developing theories in cosmology and Nietzsche's original theory of Eternal Recurrence, has a colossal significance for our understanding of human consciousness and its applicability to the question of human existence. In his book, The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsch writes:
When we say that our consciousness ‘seems’ to pass from one moment to the next we are merely paraphrasing the common-sense theory of the flow of time. But it makes no more sense to think of a single ‘moment of which we are conscious’ moving from one moment to another than it does to think of a single present moment, or anything else, doing so. Nothing can move from one moment to another. To exist at all at a particular moment means to exist there for ever [sic]. Our consciousness exists at all our (waking) moments. . . .
We do not experience time flowing, or passing. What we experience are differences between our present perceptions and our present memories of past perceptions. We interpret those differences, correctly, as evidence that the universe changes with time. We also interpret them, incorrectly, as evidence that our consciousness, or the present, or something, moves through time.11
Experiments by the author show that a theoretical synapse-to-nucleus signaling molecule is unnecessary. Strong stimulation, either from the repeated firing of a single synapse or from the simultaneous firing of several synapses on a cell, depolarizes the cell membrane, causing the cell to fire action potentials of its own, which in turn causes voltage-sensitive calcium channels to open. The calcium ions interact with enzymes that activate the transcription factor CREB, which activates the genes for manufacturing synapse-strengthening proteins. The cell's nucleus "listens," in effect, to the cell's output—firing action potentials—to determine when to permanently strengthen a synapse and make a memory last. . . .
. . . The moment-to-moment memories necessary for operating in the present are handled well by transient adjustments in the strength of individual synapses. But when an event is important enough or is repeated enough, synapses fire to make the neuron in turn fire neural impulses repeatedly and strongly, declaring "this is an event that should be recorded." The relevant genes turn on, and the synapses that are holding the short-term memory when the synapse-strengthening proteins find them, become, in effect, tattooed.12
This process appears to modify certain synaptic connections via genetic instructions and in so doing identifies a present perception for permanent storage and future recall. This action selects a conscious event from within the continuum of space-time and encodes it physically into a component of the organism's central nervous system. When a memory modification occurs in the synaptic connections, the instantaneous position and momentum of each particle within the central nervous system creates a unique state space within the continuum of space-time that correlates to that event. This state space is the organism's brain state at that instant in its life cycle. It is tantamount to the act of experiencing that event as a present perception in the organism’s temporal history.
The third and final premise presupposes that the universe exists and is manifest to the human nervous system as a multitude of phenomena; furthermore, it presupposes that the central nervous system can analyze, classify, and quantify these phenomena into a corpus of noumena constituting the axioms of natural science. Llinás expounds on this function of the nervous system during his interview:
If we look at the nervous system there are basically two functions. One is sensory—the ability to respond to the outside world—and the other is the ability to do something about it, the ability to modify the world. As the nervous system gets more complex in higher animals there’s another totally astounding property, which is the ability of the nervous system to invent things inside the head, which it can then make into reality.13
As a catalyst for an amalgamation of energy and matter, consciousness has emerged in the cosmos. Its inventiveness has created, by discovery, the axiomatic principles of cosmic evolution. What aspect of the human central nervous system accounts for this profound interplay of matter and energy? The architecture of the human brain and in particular the brain of none other than Albert Einstein may provide a clue. Douglas Fields explains:
One of the respected scientists who
examined sections of the prized brain was Marian C. Diamond of the
If cosmic evolution of space and time is axiomatic and all effects follow their causes then any present moment requires continuity with all previous moments. If evolution of space-time is cumulative, previous space-time cannot cease to exist without all space-time ceasing to exist. The current leading theory of cosmic evolution is the ‘Big Bang’ theory. It envisions the evolution of space-time as a cumulative process. Although the exact mechanism remains a mystery, there is general agreement within the scientific community that the first event must have involved some type of gargantuan expansion.
The precise nature of this theoretical inflation is to some degree incredulous in its own way; however, many scientists embrace it as the most accurate description of the first moment in the ‘Big Bang’ scenario. Brian Green explains in his book that during the first 10-35 seconds of the 'Big Bang':
Depending on details such as the precise shape of the inflaton [sic] field’s potential energy, the universe could easily have expanded by a factor of 1030, 1050, 10100, or more. These numbers are staggering. An expansion factor of 1030—a conservative estimate. . . . By comparison, even this conservative expansion factor . . . exceeds the total expansion factor that has cumulatively occurred over the subsequent 14 billion years!15
If the "Big Bang" scenario is accurate, the question remains; what does it mean in relationship to human consciousness and human will? Does the proper derivation of any ontological theory regarding the universe, demand or at least presuppose an intrinsic ability of energy and matter to uncover their own evolutionary principles as well as the will to do so? In conceptualizing the "Big Bang" scenario, did human beings identify the eternal nature of their own will? By transfiguring eternity from a primordial state of nowhere and never into the present state of somewhere and now, did the gargantuan inflation etch an eternity into every instant of time thereafter? Did the inflation create a universe in which events of the past and the future simultaneously coexist in a reality of higher dimensions? If there is such a higher dimensional reality, is it accessible to the human intellect? Is there a yet to be realized functionality of the human nervous system that is capable of interfacing with it? Is the human will capable of exploiting it?
In conformity with this third and final premise is the hypothesis that whenever the human central nervous system perceives cosmic phenomena at subatomic levels such as wavelengths or particles and attempts to extrapolate the origins of the universe from them it will intellectually conflate that phenomena into a noumenon of an expanding universe. It remains uncertain whether the perceptible expansion of space-time is an actual phenomenon or instead an object of purely intuitive insight that naturally results from the central nervous system contracting its focus to its own constitutive level.
Is there an underlying reason for the apparent similarity between a computer simulated image of galaxies, gravitationally combining to form clusters (figure 2) and the image of actual neurons in the brain tissue of a cat (figure 1)? Does this correspondence between the two patterns connote a deeper connection between the cosmos and mammalian brain? Is it significant that, in using a single set of mathematical instructions to model accurately the formation of galaxy clusters, a modern supercomputer will graphically depict a structural pattern common to both neural and interstellar systems? Why does the neuronal system of the mammalian brain develop its connections in a manner that mimics the pattern of a gravitational coalescence of galaxies?
Walle J. H. Nauta, Fundamental Neuroanatomy, ed. Michael Feirtag
(New York: Freeman, 1986), 9.
Figure 2 Supercomputer simulation of a clustering of galaxies.
Ron Cowen, “Galaxy Hunters: The search for cosmic dawn,” National Geographic 203, no. 2 (2003): 15.
If the human brain in particular has evolved from the mammalian brain, in general will this evolutionary process continue to enhance its neural performance? Is the final goal of this development the establishment of a niche that completely transcends space and time? Fully evolved, human consciousness (if we can still call it human) might so completely permeate the space-time continuum that the human mind would transcend its current concepts of past and future. Conflated in this way, these antiquated concepts vanish into the lower dimensions of a multi-dimensional cosmos.
Do the current cosmological observations, in which the volume of space located nearer to us in space-time appears to be expanding at an ever-increasing rate, reflect the emergence of this human consciousness within this region of the universe? Is this a universe in which consciousness is an emergent property of space and time an emergent property of that consciousness? Are the temporal concepts of future, present, and past simply sensations associated with neural states of unconsciousness, semi-consciousness, and consciousness respectively? Is consciousness the cause of multiple bifurcations of space-time into parallel universes? Do these parallel universes manifest their influence as a perceived increase in the local rate of cosmic expansion? Indeed, modern science may one day answer these questions, but until then they remain in the purview of great philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche's philosophy anticipated a significant connection between the scientific basis of human consciousness and the ontological state of human existence. His tripartite philosophy of Übermensch (a poorly understood superman), Eternal Recurrence, and the Will to Power represent Nietzsche's answer to a fractured symmetry of material and ethereal being. With the goal of establishing the Nietzsche connection across two thousand years of space-time, we will explore his thoughts in the next chapter.
1. Rodolfo Llinás, “The Electric Brain,” interview by Lauren Aguirre, Secrets of the Mind [NOVA Online]; available from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/mind/electric.html; Internet; accessed 10 June 2004.
4. Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos (
5. R. Douglas Fields, "The Other Half of the Brain," Scientific American, April 2004, 55.
6. Llinás, “The Electric Brain,”.
7. Fields, "The Other Half of the Brain," 59.
8. Llinás, “The Electric Brain,”.
9. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, ed. Michael Tanner, trans. Shaun Whiteside (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 25.
10. Carl Zimmer, “The Neurobiology of the Self,” Scientific American, November 2005, 93-6.
11. David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), 263.
12. R. Douglas Fields, "Making Memories Stick," Scientific American, February 2005, 80-1.
13. Llinás, “The Electric Brain,”.
14. Fields, 55.
15. Green, 284.