Posts Tagged pleasure and pain
Biologically Constituted Realities, Part One — Creating Worlds: Our Science, Too, Is Built on a Judeo-Christian Assumption of Humans Being “God’s Chosen Species.”
The Probabilities Are Enormous That There Are Unperceivable Beings, Unimaginable Realities, Unknown Ways of Perceiving … an Infinite Number of Worlds.
The findings of research from neurophysiology and neuropsychology are that neural “firings” from external stimuli are routed through interior areas of the brain that deal with fundamental physiological processes before those “messages” find their way into the cortical areas where they are then interpreted. That is to say that the organism does not distinguish between pleasure and pain—to use one crude but useful example—until “later.” Thus, the pattern of neural firings created by any particular set of stimuli is “objectively” neutral until interpreted by an organism.
This, of course, makes perfect sense. There is nothing inherently painful in a stimulus that is produced by something whose molecules are moving at such a speed and manner that one would measure its temperature at, say, 150 degrees Fahrenheit. One could easily imagine a species for which that particular vibrational rate would be within its tolerance range. The quality of pain is relative to the perceiving organism.
Similarly, there is nothing inherently “pleasurable” in a caress—that is, the pattern of stimuli involving the moving of one particular organism’s skin against another’s . . . in a particular way. Those “particulars,” along with other aspects, are what go into defining caress by means of a complex communication among billions of neural cells and their components in a specific area of the brain: the cerebral cortex. One can conceive of some biological organisms who would interpret such touching as a dire threat. Again, the interpretations of external stimuli are relative to the biological makeup of the perceiver.
Therefore, in a purely psychophysiological way, the world “out there” is not defined in and of itself. Rather, it is purely defined in the part of the person that stores cultural information (the cortex).
But our examples emphasize that prior to any cultural interpretation, a “species” interpretation is made based upon the biological “hardware” of the organism. That is to say that these “vibrational rates” of molecules—using once more the example of temperature—are not in and of themselves even “stimuli” except that certain other neurons in other parts of the body, including “lower” parts of the brain, in a complex intercommunication once again, define them as such. Vibratory rates “out there” are not patterns of neural firings. And to suppose that there is, in some magical-mystical sort of way, a kind of authentic, exact replication of the “out there” by our particular sensory apparatus is not only to state more than is conceivably possible to be stated (and to reveal an adherence to a kind of “faith” that is more reminiscent of religion than true science) it is also indisputably anthropocentric. For even our thus limited sensory apparatus informs us of other sentient creatures whose sensory systems are different than our own, indeed, vastly different in some cases.
Even among the species that we perceive as having the major five senses as we do, we observe differences: An eagle sees farther and better—certainly its world does not look like ours; a dog hears a much wider range of auditory waves—certainly its world does not sound like ours. What then of species whose senses, as nearly as we can determine with our own, are vastly different or less in number than ours? What is the “world” of an earthworm like? What, that of an amoeba? Will the real world please stand up?
Indeed, can we assume, in fairness, that our own senses are capable of perceiving all major aspects of “objective” reality, granting, even, if in limited or distorted fashion? It would be ridiculous to suppose that an earthworm or an amoeba (with apparently few, and more limited, senses) “knows” of the existence of our species in any ways other than, if anything, a series of obstacles, changes in pressure or temperature, or, well, whatever it is that comprises an earthworm’s or amoeba’s “worldview.”
Correspondingly, can we automatically assume that our particular number and set of senses, with their particular ranges, are the endpoint, the pinnacle of what is possible in terms of perceiving “world”? If a sixth, a seventh, an eighth, an nth number of “types” of senses were possible, how would we know of that possibility with our five? Would we not be in a situation analogous to that of the earthworm to us? And how would we know what would be perceived with those senses? Why would we bother to, how could we, even, measure the referents in the “out there” corresponding to such hypothetical senses in a way that they would somehow be included in our science?
Furthermore, keeping in mind that earthworm (who, we might assume for the sake of argument, perceives a Homo sapiens as something earthwormocentrically akin to pressure, an obstacle, or earthwormomolecular vibrations, i.e., earthworm hot-or-coldness), how would we know of the existence of other sentient beings (not to mention other even more unimaginable realities) who could hypothetically be outside of the range and/or number of our biologically unique senses? Would we perceive their existence as human changes in pressure, sound, touch, smell, sight, taste? As atmospheric or environmental “ambiance” changes? As solar activity or astronomical phenomena? As change in mood state, or thought pattern? Or hypothalamic or metabolic or heart or respiratory rate change? As nuemenon, “aura,” Words of God, Music of the Spheres? . . . Indeed, as leprechauns, ghosts, and elves? Or perhaps as forcible elements in dreams? Inspirational thought or feeling? Poltergeists, angels, “allies,” aliens, psychic phenomena?
Then again, would we even perceive this other or these other “species” of beings and/or unimaginable realities at all? Would they be totally out of the domain of detection by anything within our experience—whether sensory, cognitive, affective, intuitive, hallucinative?
The point is that we have no, absolutely no, way of knowing what is really real, what it “all” real ly looks like unless we anthropocentrically assume that we are “God’s chosen species,” the summit of creation, and magically endowed with a one-in-a-half billion (i.e., approximately the number of other known species) uniquely correct number of sensations and accuracy of perception. We have no way of knowing even whether or not we are in the same “space” at the same “time” (the quotation marks because these are sensorily determined in our species’s unique biological way) as other unperceivable beings, even sentient ones (though with what senses, again, we do not know).
It should be supremely clear by now, especially among those of us with a transcultural or anthropological familiarity, wherein we are made distinctly aware of the truth-shrouding nature of ethnocentrism, that any serious attempt at discerning truth is not compatible with any variety of self-serving, self-aggrandizing, or egocentric agenda. Thus, it is just as essential to throw off the overweening species-centric intellectual baggage of our Judeo-Christian tradition (which posits “man” as the ruler over nature and as the summit of created species) as it is essential to strive to drop our ethnocentric blinders. Indeed, making this attempt to view from a neutral, Archimedean, nonanthropocentric “window,” it follows logically that the probabilities are enormous that there are, in fact, other, unperceivable beings, unknown and unimaginable realities, and other and different senses . . . and, yes, as one “new physics” proposition puts it, an “infinite” number of “worlds.”
Continue with We Can’t Know What We Can’t Know but We Cannot Unknow What We Are: Our Reality Is Species Determined and the Relativity of Science
Return to The Great Reveal, Chapter Forty-One: The Thirty-Third and Final Prasad. “Something Wonderful Is Going to Happen,” say Planetmates
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