In our story of Creation, we mentioned that Evolution works to increase Attention. Nature first moved basic functions from the cell membrane to organelles in the cell’s interior and then organized single cells into multi-cellular organisms. What is Natural Selection operating upon? What else, but the Integral Membrane Proteins – the sensory-motor switches that are related to cellular intelligence.
As evidence of the biological importance of the IMP switches, natural selection ‘chooses’ random mutations to maximize the number of these basic units of perception. In fact, evolutionary biologists employ this scientific fact to explain the two most significant changes in life forms – the evolution of prokaryotes to eukaryotes and then the eukaryotes to multi-cellular organisms. Let us see how.
“Cell biologists gained insight into the amazing abilities of the cell membrane by studying the most primitive organisms on this planet, the prokaryotes. Prokaryotes, which include bacteria and other microbes, consist only of a cell membrane that envelopes a droplet of soupy cytoplasm. Though prokaryotes represent life in its most primitive form, they have purpose. A bacterium does not bounce around its world like a ball in a pinball machine. A bacterium carries out the basic physiologic processes of life like more complicated cells. A bacterium eats, digests, breathes, excretes waste matter, and even exhibits 'neurological' processing. They can sense where there is food and propel themselves to that spot. Similarly, they can recognize toxins and predators and purposely employ escape maneuvers to save their lives. In other words, prokaryotes display intelligence!
So what structure in the prokaryotic cell provides its ‘intelligence'? The prokaryotes’ cytoplasm has no evident organelles, such as the nucleus and mitochondria, that are found in more advanced, eukaryotic cells. The most likely candidate for the prokaryote’s brain is its cell membrane, the only organelle found in every living cell.” (Lipton, p. 46)
The membrane of the bacteria (prokaryote) performs every function that the cell requires for survival, e.g. digestion, respiration and elimination. With the evolution of the nucleated cell (eukaryote), these functions were moved inside. Rather than the membrane, organelles perform these tasks. Biologists suspect that some organelles are remnants of those membrane-isolated bacteria colonies that got trapped inside the outer membrane.
Shifting these essential responsibilities to the cell’s interior freed up the surface area of the membrane for more IMP switches, i.e. the basic units of cellular perception, hence intelligence. Biologists agree that increasing the number of perception units (IMPs) increases the collective awareness of the cell. Evidently this increase in perception provides an evolutionary advantage, else Nature would not have chosen to move vital functions into the cell’s interior.
While the individual switches represent units of awareness, they mean nothing by themselves. Purely reflexive, they are like little machines – no awareness. However somehow their collective sensitivity – hundreds of thousands of these little infinitesimal sensory switches – becomes the measure of Cellular Attention. IMP switches are too little to be anything but perception on their own. However when unified, they become Awareness/Attention.
Biologists agree that the IMP switches are mechanistic units of perception. However when joined together, they somehow generate a collective Awareness. This collective Awareness is the source of the intelligent behavior that ensures survival. They also agree that Cells seem to exhibit intentional behavior.
Individual IMPs = Mechanistic Perception
Collective IMPs = Intentional Awareness
What factor enabled such an impossible leap? Some would claim that the jump from mechanistic to intentional is an emergent property of the increasing complexity and connectivity of Matter. Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t really matter, excuse the pun. Thus far, materialist explanations have been unable to capture Life’s holistic complexity, especially regarding Attention.
In contrast, this biological consensus regarding the physical causes of Cellular Awareness dovetails ‘perfectly’ with our ID model. It is at the point when individual Perception becomes collective Awareness that the Cell’s ID system begins operation, not an instant before. The function of the ID system is to digest data streams. The IMPs conveniently supply the data streams of 1s and 0s that are the ‘food’ of the ID system.
Every cell, not just human, animal or plant cells, have this capacity for awareness that is essential for the ‘intelligent’ behavior necessary for survival. However, the level of awareness is not fixed, but is rather linked to the number of IMP switches a life form has in its membrane. For instance, the eukaryotic cells exhibit more awareness than do prokaryotic cells (microbes like bacteria).
Why? Eukaryotes, nucleated cells, have orders of magnitude more IMPs in their membrane than prokaryotes. This extreme difference is for two reasons: 1) Nature moved essential functions from the bacteria’s membrane into the interior organelles of the prokaryote. 2) Eukaryotes are much larger than prokaryotes.
Prokaryotic cells range between 0.1 though 5.0 micrometers in diameter, while eukaryotic cells range between 10 to 100 micrometers in diameter. Because the surface area of a sphere is a function of the cube of the diameter, the surface area of eukaryotes is from 8 times to 109 times larger than the surface area of prokaryotes. Due to this size differential, Nature was able to cram many more units of ‘intelligence’, the IMPs, into the eukaryotes’ membrane.
Nature required 2 billion years to move the basic functions inside to increase cellular awareness. It took another three quarter of a billion years for evolution to figure out how to increase Awareness again. This time cells joined their individual awareness into the collective awareness of a multi-cellular organism. This provided another evolutionary advantage.
As the esteemed Stanford Biologist Bruce Lipton points out:
“At first cellular communities consisted of from tens to hundreds of cells. But the evolutionary advantage of living in a community soon led to organizations comprised of millions, billions and trillions of socially interactive cells. … The evolutionary push for ever-bigger communities is simply a reflection of the biological imperative to survive. The more awareness an organism has of its environment, the better its chances of survival. When cells band together they increase their awareness exponentially.” (Lipton, p. 9)
Evolution works to expand our capacity for Attention. To achieve this task, Nature initially operated via natural selection to increase the sheer number of IMP switches, the units of cellular intelligence – from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to multi-cellular organisms. Sleep and increased connectivity were later innovations that served the same purpose.
“First, the story of evolution is the story of ascension to higher awareness. Second, in our study of the membrane, we defined the receptor effector complex (IMPs) as the fundamental unit of awareness/intelligence. Consequently, the more receptor-effector proteins an organism possesses, the more awareness it can have and the higher it is on the evolutionary ladder.” (Lipton, P. 167)
The biological conclusion is clear. Rather than a phantasm, a superstitious throwback to bygone ages, Attention is as real as the evolution that gives it a premiere position in the 4 billion year development of living systems.
Evolution aims to increase the collective Attention of the cell and then the multi-cellular organism. It achieves this goal by increasing the number and qualities of individual IMPs. But the actual IMPs don’t evolve. What they do evolves, not what they are.
Ever since the first bacterium appeared 4 billion years ago, the IMPs have always been an alternating sequence of polar and non-polar amino acids that are woven through the three layer cellular membrane. Further IMPs have always had sensors that extend into the environment (receptors), that when triggered evoke a reflexive response (effectors). This is the way they have always operated, no evolution. Only the collective Attention evolves. How?
For the first few billion years at least, Nature achieved this task by adding more tools (the IMPs) to Attention’s repertoire. It all seems straightforward – on the surface. The more IMPs the greater the Awareness, i.e. the capacity for Attention. Appears reasonable. The same logic applies in many situations. The more money one has, the richer one is. The more muscles, the stronger one is. More generally results in better; the bigger the better in many circumstances. Nothing confusing about this reasoning.
Seems logical that the same reasoning would apply to Attention. Add up many little bits of Attention to get lots of Attention. Duh! In fact, the majority of biologists believe that this analysis applies to the relationship between Evolution and Attention. Scientists add the physiological units of perception (the IMP switches) to determine the relative size of an organism’s Awareness/Intelligence.
As it is integrally related with intelligent behavior, we imagine that Attention would be part of an evolutionary arms race between species, just like size, speed and strength. The bigger, faster, stronger and intelligent a species was, the more likely that they would survive. Seems reasonable enough.
Bigger, faster and stronger are physiological features as they all relate to muscles. The size, type, reaction time and flexibility of muscles can be objectively quantified with material standards. Biologists also add up units of perception (the number of IMP switches) to determine the quantity of Attention. Their relative sizes are all based upon objective physiological standards.
There are hundreds of thousands of IMP switches in the membrane of every cell. They are not identical. Each IMP switch is a particular sensory/motor apparatus that is linked to a pair of receptor/effector proteins. For instance, some of these protein pairs might have the ability to sense and deal with insulin molecules. There is an IMP switch for every possible situation that might arise regarding survival, both internal and external.
It’s obvious to almost anyone that the greater the number and varieties of sensory/motor switches: the more comprehensive the environmental info. The better the quality of the info – the more sophisticated the response – the better the chances of survival. Simple straightforward. Right.
However, each IMP is only a tool, not the operator. The greater the number of IMPs: the greater the number of tools. Definitely. Although they are the source of intelligence, they are not the intelligence. Similarly bigger, faster, stronger, and more flexible muscles are better tools and so provide an evolutionary advantage.
Yet something is missing. There has to be some kind of deliberate entity to take advantage of all these tools – something that is independent of the tools. Although each of the IMP pairs twitches like a reflex when stimulated, some purposeful force must organize these twitches into a coordinated response that serves the entire cell. In order to transform individuals into a cooperative team, there must be an operator that takes the entire life form into account.
Something, not the individual switches, must analyze IMP data streams to choose the best of these machine-like responses – decide which tools to operate and when. After analyzing the incoming data, the same something must decide which muscles to flex to achieve the desired end. Sometimes the hammer and sometimes the saw. The right tool for the right job.
“Like humans, single cells analyze thousands of stimuli from the microenvironment they inhabit. Through the analysis of this data, cells select appropriate behavioral responses to ensure their survival.” (Bruce H. Lipton: The Biology of Belief, Hay House, Inc., 2008, p.7)
What part of the cell performs the analysis of all these data streams generated by the IMPs and selects the appropriate behavior? As their reactions are virtually instantaneous and certainly automatic, the reflex-like IMP switches certainly can’t perform any analysis or make any decisions. Having faith in the materialist dogma, some, perhaps most, biologists believe that there is neither analysis nor decisions and that all the interactions are rather bio-chemical reactions. Perhaps. But this materialist analysis can’t account for abundant evidence.
Rather, it is more likely that the cellular intelligence is associated with the collective Attention of hundreds of thousands of IMPs. The cell with its collective Attention analyzes myriad data streams before making a holistic decision as to which action to take. If so, living systems before anything else are mathematicians. After the deterministic reactions of the IMPs, the cellular intelligence first performs mathematical analysis in order to make informed decisions that serve the entire organism. Under this perspective, living systems are mathematical creatures first and foremost.
What type of mathematical system do they employ? Calculus? Too rigid. Probability? Only deals with static data sets. Data Stream Dynamics, the mathematics of the ID system? Specializes in open data streams. Ideally suited for the task.
While the IMPs provide the biological substrate that supplies the data streams, they can’t possibly provide the analysis. Then where does the inner mathematician exist? Where does the collective Attention exist? Is it located in some undiscovered part of the cell? Or could it be instead an immaterial component that is associated with the Cell’s ID system?
The evidence seems to indicate that Life has both a material and immaterial component. Immaterial!? Horrors! Smacks of the superstitions of earlier times. Attention and Computation occurring on this immaterial plane. Yikes!
Relax. Let us entertain this model until it breaks down internally. After all, we live with many mysteries that are incomprehensible to the human mind. Reason with its logical consistency is not all that it is cracked up to be. Indeed, this filter excludes vast bodies of evidence - even realms of existence.
We must simply accept that we exist in a paradoxical Universe and move on to investigate what we can understand – for instance, the evolution of Atomic Matter and the evolution of Cells, which includes the evolution of Awareness.
Reductionism, i.e. reducing a larger system to its fundamental units (building blocks), is a great way to analyze and understand evolutionary processes. Atoms are the indisputable building blocks of Molecules, which combine to form Matter. Cells are the indisputable building blocks of multicellular organisms, hence all life forms.
Determining when the building block metaphor applies and when not is very important. For instance, atoms are the building blocks of the cell’s material component. Yet they are not the building blocks of Life. Why? Life has an immaterial component associated with Attention, Feelings, the digestion of information, etc.
Let us provide a concrete example of this dichotomy. Atoms are the building blocks of all the raw materials that it takes to build a house. But it takes humans with relationships, love, Feelings, Attention, Intention, etc to turn the house into a home. A house empty of life is not a home.
To attempt to understand a home from either the perspective of the Subatomic Realm with its electrons and photons or the Molecular Realm with its atoms and objects is ludicrous – a waste of valuable time. The Feelings that are necessary to transform a house into a home arose with the very first bacterium and not an instant before. Inanimate Matter has never had the love and caring that transform a house into a home, and so provide us no clues about community. The feelings of a bacterium are very simple compared to the very complicated human emotions into which they evolved; yet they provide the initial building blocks upon which our emotional structure is built.
While feelings and emotions belong to Life’s immaterial Realm of Attention, the cell membrane’s IMPs are part of Life’s Material Realm. Just as the primal bacterium’s Feelings eventually evolved into (are the building blocks of) human emotion, the primal bacterium’s IMPs are the building blocks of many crucial features of living systems. That is the topic of the next section.
We have spent a lot of verbiage on Integral Membrane Proteins for good reason. They provide the material substrate for the cell’s collective Attention. While serving this vital function, they are not the building blocks of Attention. The former is deterministic/reactive, while the latter is intentional/purposeful. Similarly while providing the ID system with fuel/food, i.e. data, they are not a functioning part of the ID system. In like fashion, gas is not part of a car’s machinery.
However, these IMPs do provide the building blocks of the senses, living behavior and images. Let us see how.
As the cell membrane’s IMPs turn on and off in response to environmental activity, they generate an ongoing data stream of 1s (on) and 0s (off). The cellular intelligence analyzes these ongoing data streams to make up-to-date decisions. The primal bacterium provided the first IMP data streams, the building blocks of all future data streams. Of course, these data streams are the fuel for Life’s ID system.
“Like humans, single cells analyze thousands of stimuli from the microenvironment they inhabit. Through the analysis of this data, cells select appropriate behavioral responses to ensure their survival.” (Bruce H. Lipton: The Biology of Belief, Hay House, Inc., 2008, p.7)
Data analysis implies a memory of results – a cognizance of the past. What better way than the translucency of the Image Overlay Process (IOP) of our Information Digestion System (IDS)? The IOP allows the organism to perceive the past.
In this case, the organism’s perception is linked to the collective Attention of hundreds of thousands of IMPs – each generating a single image, which merge into composite images. The perception of the prior images layered behind the current image is the step that transforms inanimate molecules into an integrated unit with a purpose. The individual IMPs do not have this ability – any more than a motorcycle can drive itself.
How does the cell perceive the past? What sense organ? None. The perception of the past occurs through data stream analysis. As mentioned, cells are first and foremost mathematical creatures. By reading the data, the cells can ‘see’ the past. In similar fashion, scientists can ‘see’ the inside of the Earth by analyzing seismic data.
The microscopic cellular scientists read the data streams supplied by the IMPs to create models of their environment. They test their models in action. Successful models are passed on to offspring. Unsuccessful models die with the organism.
What are these models based upon? Calculus? Probably not. Too automatic, closed to new data, not flexible enough.
Data Stream Dynamics? A perfect fit for the hundreds of thousands IMP data streams that bombard the cell’s collective intelligence, its microscopic mind. The evidence indicates that cellular scientists employ DSD, or some facsimile, to analyze these data streams.
By taking prior data into account, this analysis provides a sense of time that is a necessary ingredient in memory, identity and meaning. DSD also supplies a way to both transmit content, process and the relationship between the two.
After analyzing the IMP data streams, the cellular Mind chooses which reflex to trigger, or more appropriately which collection of reflex triggers (the moment) or which sequence of triggers (over time). The first entails a coordinated action for the moment, like a frog catching a fly with its tongue; the second represents sustained behavior over time, like the survival dance between the lion and the deer. DSD is an essential analytical tool in this process as it provides both ongoing analytics and correspondences.
No matter which choice Mind makes, he is choosing a set of preset behaviors that are hardwired into the IMP effectors. The actions are on autopilot. Mind merely chooses which type of effectors to trigger, e.g. fight or flight.
Gradually over time, hardwired behavior patterns became ever more complex. But they all derived from the original IMP effectors embedded in the very first bacterium’s membrane. In such a way, the IMP effector proteins are the building blocks of living behavior.
Employing similar reasoning, we can safely say that the IMP receptors are the building blocks of our senses. With evolution, the composite senses became ever more sophisticated. However, these senses, e.g. sight, derived from the original IMP receptor proteins.
Both of these building blocks have a biological correlate in the brain, human as well as other species. The hypothalamus is a repository for sensory input, while the pituitary gland is responsible for triggering action.
“Think back to the cell membrane’s stimulus response mechanism, the receptor-effector proteins – the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands are behavioral equivalents. Similar to the role of receptor protein, the hypothalamus receives and recognizes environmental signals; the pituitary's function resembles that of the effector protein in that it launches the body’s organs into action.” Lipton p 118
In other words, the two types of IMPs evolved into essential physiological features of living systems – a strong indication of their building block status.
How about images?
Images are built into the IMP proteins. Each receptor is a nearly exact image of environmental stimuli. In fact, there is a unique receptor ‘image’ for every situation. These images were intact in the very first bacterium 4.1 billion years ago and have been refined ever since. Over evolutionary time, living systems built upon these microscopic images to generate ever more complex renditions of reality. Eventually our hypothalamus takes all our sensory input to create an image of a thing or person, perhaps your mother.
From the hundreds of thousands of signals generates by the IMPs, the Cellular Mind forms an image – dynamic model of the environment. These images are overlaid upon top of each other with each collective on and off of the IMP switches (the Image Overlay Process). The effectiveness of the model including response is recorded (in the connective tissue?) as a working memory for similar interactions in the future.
The ultimate evolutionary manifestation of this imaging process is in the neural networks of our brain. Damasio even links image formation to the biology of the mind. More on this topic when we examine images in more depth.
What is the significance of the IMPs for my Info Digestion Model?
To have any validity, my admittedly dogma-challenging ID model must be tied to scientific facts. IMPs provide a biological substrate for Attention. Attention is a key component of the ID system – probably the most important in terms of my discoveries.
Why so important? Attention provides the interface between Mind and Body and is associated with mental energy and image formation, hence Experience. Linking Attention to the IMPs provides some biological facts with which to bind my model.
All of the ID system’s components are indispensable. Feelings drive the ID system; Attention senses; Mind analyzes and decides; and Intention executes.
However, only Attention is indisputable. Feelings, Mind, Intention, mental energy and even Life are disputed by a significant group of philosophers and scientists. As we speak, multiple conferences have been organized with the express purpose of discussing whether Consciousness exists – pro and cons of myriad subtle positions. The educated have even written books about this bizarre topic. It is provides more solidity to ground my model in the indisputable.
Although Attention is never questioned, no one really knows what it is or how to define it – nothing satisfactory yet. Similarly, scientists know a lot about what energy does, but no one knows what it is. Having a biological foundation (the IMPs) grounds Attention in the body.
Although IMPs provide the basis of Attention, they are not it. Attention is linked to a Life Force, time’s vertical dimension and Life’s ID system with its IOP. None of these features apply to the IMPs, as they belong to the deterministic Material Realms.
However IMPS are the building blocks of senses, behavior, images. Producing the original images, IMPs also provide the original data streams, the fuel of the ID System, As IMPs and Attention are linked, so is Attention linked to these significant aspects of Human Experience. As the building blocks of all these living features, the IMPs are also linked to the formation of Self, Mind and Consciousness. This is why IMPs are so exciting to me.
While these bi-polar proteins do not belong to the ID System, they are the physiological bottom – where Matter interacts with Life. No more searching. We have arrived at the foundation of senses, behavior, images and data streams.
No more speculating about the nature of the primal data streams. Each IMP switch generates a unique image stream – turning on and off when the appropriate environmental stimulus triggers the receptor protein images. Rather than numbers, the images are distinct material reflections of reality.
No more need to discuss ambiguous beginnings. The IMPs of the very first bacterium generated the very first data streams. This incremental stream of information enables the Image Overlay Process that is analyzed by Mind with DSD.
This biological foundation eliminates certain questions and focuses our mental energy upon other, sometimes more subtle, issues. How do individual IMPs become collective Attention? And where does Attention along with Mind and the Image Overlay Process exist?
There is a biological consensus that evolutionary forces operate to increase collective Attention. This is an indisputable scientific fact. Yet these same biologists can’t really define this Intentional Awareness. Nor do they know where it is located. Nor do they know how it operates. Yet they all agree it exists. What are the implications?
Recall that each IMP switch represents a mechanistic unit of perception. When accumulated in the hundreds of thousands, they become intentional collective Attention. Indisputable. According to our model, this collective Attention is a key component of the Information Digestion System that cells employ to interact with environmental info.
This collective Attention must have a holistic focus that none of the individual protein machines can possibly have. Why? The IMPs are localized sensory-motor switches, while Attention is associated with Intentional Awareness that is global. In short, Attention and the IMPs, while intimately linked, operate independently of each other – one mindlessly local, the other deliberately global.
If it is independent of the IMPs that it consists of, where does this collective Attention exist? It is tempting to look for a location in the cell’s interior that analyzes data and then makes decisions. Where does Attention, the King of IMPs, live? Some kind of centralized location – a command center?
Sorry. Wrong conceptual metaphor. This logical structure does not apply to the cell. The cell, especially the ‘simple’ bacterium, does not have a centralized brain. This ‘simple’ single celled organism that successfully replicated for 2 billion years before more complicated (nucleated) cells evolved only consists of a membrane that encloses cytoplasm.
Rather Attention seems to be an emergent feature of a multitude of IMP micro-switches. According to our model, the global intelligence associated with Attention also includes an ID system with Mind, Feelings, and Intention. The whole ID package begins with the IMP switches even though they are not this Intentional Awareness.
Neither Attention, nor Feelings, nor Mind, nor Intention has a precise location (a seat of consciousness). Rather miraculously they seem to be features of the entire holistic system of the Cell – the ID system that emerges simultaneously with Life.
Could the ID system and Attention be part of some kind of field that is generated by the activity of the IMPs? Perhaps an electro-magnetic field? Possible, but not probable. The electrons that generate EM fields are too impersonal. Without purpose, they are like mindless billiard balls. How could they possibly orchestrate the movements of trillions of inanimate molecules to fight for the cell’s survival?
If not electromagnetism, then what? The other 3 fundamental material forces are either too weak (gravity) or too concentrated (the two nuclear forces). And they are certainly just as impersonal and aimless as EM.
The cell’s organizational force does not seem to have its roots in the four basic material forces. If not, then what? At this point, we have to play the Immaterial card, as it is really the only one left in our hand. Could it be that Attention along with the ID system belongs to Life’s immaterial realm? Is it possible that they belong to a different dimension of time? Our ID model certainly entertains this possibility.
Another dimension of time? Curiouser and curiousier?