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The Hand Experiment part 2

Did you do it? It is a very simple to do. However, it not as simple as it seems. We have a long period of body training before we reach the age when we acquire the coordination skills to do this simple feat and even an even longer training period to learn to understand enough language to perform such requests.

100 Trillion Little Animals jump to your command

Touching the tip of your nose is actually quite a feat. To accomplish it, you managed to get some 100 trillion little animals to move in perfect coordination through three dimensional space so a few thousand of them on the remote tip of your finger came into gentle contact with another few thousand little animals making up the tip of your nose. Then the billions of little creatures that form your hand and arm went smartly back to whatever they were doing before you ordered the move.

We can identify any one of the little animals making up your body as an individual being. We call them cells but in reality, they are little creatures. Here is a video of live neuron cells. It is a time lapse sequence showing the development and movement of the little tentacles the neuron uses to communicate with other cells.

Any one of your cells can survive for a time outside of your body if it is put in a culture medium at the proper temperature. In the 1930's, scientists discovered to their amazement that if they isolated human cells, the cells lost their specialized shapes and behaved like ordinary protozoa; like amoebas. The scientists gently prodded these isolated cells with a very fine glass probes and discovered that the cells reacted to the stimulus like any other little animal. They ingested food, respired, secreted wastes, grows, were sensitive to a wide range of environmental signals, communicated with other cells, and yet each one contained all the genetic material to create a whole human being.

Here is a white blood "cell" chasing bacteria in a blood culture.

Scientists have even taught cells to count. Neurons can count reliably to 9. Modern science could take any one of your little creatures and make it grow into another you (as if one wasn't enough)!

In short, every one of the trillions of cells of your body it is a little animal, an individual being.

You are an individual being, the great decider.

We can also identify you as an individual being. You have a name, you eat, breathe, secrete wastes, grow, are sensitive to a wide range of environmental signals, communicate with other people and contain half of the genetic material to create sons and daughters. You are a single, individual being. Just like one of your cells.

This is where the experiment gets to the critical question.

How did you manage to get those little animals to begin the movement?

Never mind about how you trained them to manipulate the hand and arm. Never mind about how the tip of the finger managed to negotiate to the correct spot. We can explain the feedback mechanism used to stop the motion before flattening your nose. But how did you begin the process?

Before you get into this too far, we are not talking about ionic pumps or neurotransmitters; not the biochemistry that went on in your muscle cells that resulted in your arm moving. The problem to address is how you, an individual human being with a name, a personality, an identity and a feeling of "self" managed to communicate anything at all to even one of those little individual animals that we call neurons. Cells nobody on the planet even imagined existed before the American Revolution.

The Problem

Scientists can identify the centers of the brain that control finger movement, arm movement, body balance, visual co-ordination, and so on. They can trace the electrical and biochemical aspects of nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

What neither the scientists nor you can figure out is how the collective "you" manages to kick off all of this activity. It can't be terribly hard. You just want it to happen and it does. You do it all the time.

Do you see the problem?

  • You can identify yourself as an entity.

  • You and I can communicate, even in writing.

  • I can make a suggestion for an experiment and you can understand that suggestion.

  • But single cells don't read and would not understand English even if they could hear it.

  • Cells don't have eyes or ears or hands or any of the normal means of "communication" that we human beings use.

  • All animals, from corals to elephants, do make decisions and get their cells to behave just they way they should without the slightest idea they are made up of little cells. In fact, most people don't know they are made of trillions of little animals and not long ago nobody at all knew it.

  • We don't understand how the phenomenon called mind is related to the brain, let alone how it is related to the cells.

So when you, as a collective entity of 100 trillion little animals made up your "mind" to perform the experiment, exactly how did you communicate this to even one of the little creatures?

I don't believe our normal scientific viewpoint can answer this simple question.

What's more, I believe this question is at the focus of a major failure of our way of thinking about ourselves and the world around us..

The one and the many

It questions the link between the individual and the collective, a problem that unfolds in our human society again and again. The relationship of the individual human being to the collective humanity, of the individual spirit to the collective spirit, of personal rights and group rights, are all confused by our inability to deal with this question.

We meet this problem everywhere in This Magic Sea. It is one of the major navigational hazards preventing our reaching beyond the current horizons of perceptions.

The Solution to the Problem

When you have thought it through - and you should really take time to think about this paradox - you can find the solution to the problem by an enjoyable exploration of the web of communications on the coral reef.

There is a link hidden in that exploration sequence with the answer to the paradox and  more experiments on the subject. (Hint, look for the face hidden in the coral reef). It's not in the first file you will link to. You'll have to follow the thread to find it.

Branch off here if you would like more detail on the Mind and Brain or  Mind, or another hint towards the solution.