Teilhard’s Inner Face of Consciousness

A Guest Blog from Clint Hyer

A few nights ago, I watched a PBS show “What Do Plants Talk About”  http://video.pbs.org/video/2338524490/  which showed how how plants, with no separate brains, can respond to, and react with, their environments.

We are all aware that plants can respond to the sunlight – both by turning towards the sun and by closing up at night. We also know that plant seeds respond to the temperature of the soil in “deciding” when to come up in the spring time. There are also “short day” plants such as Poinsettia and Cherry Trees which require periods of long nights in order to bloom. (Cherry trees will never blossom very much south of the latitude of Washington DC). The PBS show showed that some parasitic plants can “select” certain plants that they will grow on and that the selection is based upon the odor (respiration byproducts) the plants produce.

What came to mind is the “Consciousness inner face” (p.58) that Teilhard discusses in The Phenomenon Of Man. One of the controversial concepts is the all matter has Consciousness but it is more granular at the earlier stages of evolution. Teilhard goes on to write (p.60), “The degree of concentration of a consciousness varies in reverse ratio to the simplicity of compound lined by it.”

Going back one more level of simplicity, does inorganic material have some level of Consciousness? The answer could be: ”Yes.”  Consider the scientific concept of “fields” such as gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields, and other fields of force. For more than 400 years – since Newton developed the mathematics of gravitational fields –  science has been at a loss to explain “action at a distance”   “Fields” is a utilitarian concepts used to predict how things will respond. But it provides no explanation of why they respond.

How does the earth “know” that there is a sun “out there”? If I take a stone up to the International Space Station, how does it “know” that, being further from the earth,  it is to fall more slowly than it will fall when it is on the surface of the earth? How does it “know” to adjust it s speed to correspond exactly to the speed at which the International Space Station is falling as it orbits the earth? Or if I place the stone in a rocket to the moon, how does it “know” the exact point where it will no longer fall to the earth but rather fall towards the moon? Or looking at it from an evolutionary point of view, how did the first space dust “know” there was other space dust with which it joined together to form the stars and later the planets?

Or consider inorganic chemistry. We can only “discover” what the molecules already “know.” An atom of hydrogen “knew” how to “find” and interact with two atoms of oxygen to form water eons before science figured out the composition of water.

Perhaps Teilhard was on to something that we are just now becoming aware. Consciousness is an “awareness” of a relationship with something else. It is found in granular rocks which are “attracted” to each other in what we call gravitational fields. It is found in atoms and molecules that are “attracted” to each other only in certain patterns.  It is found in single cell life which is “attracted” to other cells to form colonies. It is found in plants that are “attracted” to the sun. It is found to animals which are “attracted” to other members of their species. And it is found in humans which are “attracted” to each other in what we call love.

Could these attractions be the “conscious inner force”  to which Teilhard was trying to draw our attention?

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