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Thread: How did organisms become sentient

  1. #1 How did organisms become sentient 
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    Alright right off the bat, i know sentient is the wrong word but i couldn't think of a word that meant what i wanted to and that was the closest i came up with.

    Alright the major question i have here is this: how did any organism become aware of survival. By this i mean, how did they evolve from a bunch of elements almost haphazardly thrown together to become a microbe that strives to survive. What i mean is how did any organism strive to survive. How is it they knew that survival as a species was dependent on reproduction. How is it that it knew that it needed certain things in order to survive. So basically how is it that any organism "know" how to survive.

    When i say "know" i do not mean, them coming to the realization that dying was bad. I am asking how is it that a chain of compounds created something as complex as RNA (and later DNA) which had the "knowledge" of what to do and what not to do. Such as knowing to have a microbe reproduce or how to bring things in and out of it.

    Overall, how is it that the very first microbes were able to survive. What was it that caused them to know what to do to keep from dying. How did the RNA know what to do.

    I hope you understood.


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  3. #2 Re: How did organisms become sentient 
    Forum Masters Degree Golkarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xToxicInferno
    Alright right off the bat, i know sentient is the wrong word but i couldn't think of a word that meant what i wanted to and that was the closest i came up with.

    Alright the major question i have here is this: how did any organism become aware of survival. By this i mean, how did they evolve from a bunch of elements almost haphazardly thrown together to become a microbe that strives to survive. What i mean is how did any organism strive to survive. How is it they knew that survival as a species was dependent on reproduction. How is it that it knew that it needed certain things in order to survive. So basically how is it that any organism "know" how to survive.

    When i say "know" i do not mean, them coming to the realization that dying was bad. I am asking how is it that a chain of compounds created something as complex as RNA (and later DNA) which had the "knowledge" of what to do and what not to do. Such as knowing to have a microbe reproduce or how to bring things in and out of it.

    Overall, how is it that the very first microbes were able to survive. What was it that caused them to know what to do to keep from dying. How did the RNA know what to do.

    I hope you understood.
    Well, obviously some organisms are aware of suvival, like us. But I don't think that is what your talking about. Organisms don't "know" to survive, they just do, through evolution. It's a natural process, a pencil doesn't "know" to fall, it just does.

    This thread sort of explains it:
    http://www.thescienceforum.com/Evolution-27789t.php

    Or are you interested in the specifics? eg how does rna/dna reproduce?


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    It's quite simple, really. Any organism that didn't do "the right thing" to survive and reproduce, didn't. They didn't live, they didn't leave a line of descendants that lived until today. The only organisms that are around today are the ones whose ancestors happened to do "the right thing."

    That's how natural selection works. You start out with variation, most of it randomly generated. Many individuals that do different things. Some of them don't have stable enough molecules, don't eat the right food, don't avoid the predators. They die. They're gone. What's left are the ones who do have the stable molecules, who do eat the right food, who do avoid the predators. It's probably only a few individuals who have the right combination. They're the only ones that are left who survive, reproduce, and grow in number. They're the ones whose lineage extends through time until today.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    as paralith and golkarian pointed out, they don't think about it, they just do it.

    sentience is(in one sense of the word) self awareness. humans, dolphins, some monkeys, and maybe a few other mammals are capable of this. nothing else really has this kind of "consciousness"

    as far as we know, humans are the only species that is actually concerned about its own evolutionary future. other modern organisms and our ancestors didn't know they were evolving by doing what they were doing. pre-human apes didn't know that standing up and leaving africa would drastically affect their biology and place them as the dominant species on this planet.

    evolution is often thought of - mistakenly - as a conscious process, as if someone or something is picking and choosing the best versions of each organism. to the best of our knowledge, this is far from the truth. the truth of the matter is that the best survive and reproduce because they can and because their biology tells them they should(through complex and only partly understood methods of gene expression resulting in emergent traits).

    in pre-campbrian microbes it was the same thing. they weren't nearly as complex as modern microbes or other organisms, but they were alive. the genes that promoted the process of dna replication and cell division led to cells that could reproduce more rapidly and more efficiently than other cells. cells with genes that coded for proteins that would bring in and metabolize vital nutrients more efficiently were able to grow and divide faster. i'm hazy on when viruses developed, but once they did it was the microbes that had restriction enzymes which could chop up viral dna which survived and reproduced. these and other changes in the genome of a species are not purposeful, they are random actions that when benificial are likely to propogate and when detrimental are likely to be bred out. through generations upon generations and millions of years of evolution the early clumps of self replicating RNA, lipids, proteins, and perhaps some other organic chemicals became the virus that recently infected you or someone you know and made them sick, the loved one that got sick, your pet, the plants that make the oxygen you breath, and you.
    physics: accurate, objective, boring
    chemistry: accurate if physics is accurate, slightly subjective, you can blow stuff up
    biology: accurate if chemistry is accurate, somewhat subjective, fascinating
    religion: accurate if people are always right, highly subjective, bewildering
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    I know what sentient means. I meant what compelled the microbes to divide and create new microbes. As far as i know theirs is no chemical reaction that causes something to recreate its self.

    The question i am asking is this: How did the FIRST (WITHOUT ANY EVOLUTION OR NATURAL SELECTION TO INFLUENCE IT) microbe know how to split and when to. How was it able to survive. In other words what made it different from any other combination of elements. What caused this haphzard bunch of compounds to "know" how to create a new one of its self.

    We don't see rocks creating new rocks. We simply see elements being compressed by natural process such as gravity while heat is being applied to create what we know as rocks. So how is it that the compounds known as RNA and DNA control the process a microbe does. Is it as simple as the RNA creates a protein which stimulates another section of the microbe in just the right way that it does something, and so on and so forth? If that is the case then it is nothing but pure luck that life came about at all.
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    Quote Originally Posted by xToxicInferno
    I know what sentient means. I meant what compelled the microbes to divide and create new microbes. As far as i know theirs is no chemical reaction that causes something to recreate its self.

    The question i am asking is this: How did the FIRST (WITHOUT ANY EVOLUTION OR NATURAL SELECTION TO INFLUENCE IT) microbe know how to split and when to. How was it able to survive. In other words what made it different from any other combination of elements. What caused this haphzard bunch of compounds to "know" how to create a new one of its self.

    We don't see rocks creating new rocks. We simply see elements being compressed by natural process such as gravity while heat is being applied to create what we know as rocks. So how is it that the compounds known as RNA and DNA control the process a microbe does. Is it as simple as the RNA creates a protein which stimulates another section of the microbe in just the right way that it does something, and so on and so forth? If that is the case then it is nothing but pure luck that life came about at all.
    Well if your interested in the origin of life I reccomend "Genesis: The Scientific Quest for the Origin of Life" by Robert Hazen.

    Chance would be a good way to put it, but if we rely on chance than the first organism would have to be simpler than anything alive (or known) today. And no one yet knows how it began. But once a molecule or self-replicating "thing" arrises it would not reproduce because it "knew" to do so. It would replicate because the chemistry happened to allow that kind of molecule to reproduce (eg autocatalysis, the "chemical reaction that causes something to recreate itself").

    There are also other factors that can increase the "chance" of a complex molecule arrising, such as energy.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by xToxicInferno
    I know what sentient means. I meant what compelled the microbes to divide and create new microbes. As far as i know theirs is no chemical reaction that causes something to recreate its self.

    The question i am asking is this: How did the FIRST (WITHOUT ANY EVOLUTION OR NATURAL SELECTION TO INFLUENCE IT) microbe know how to split and when to. How was it able to survive. In other words what made it different from any other combination of elements. What caused this haphzard bunch of compounds to "know" how to create a new one of its self.

    We don't see rocks creating new rocks. We simply see elements being compressed by natural process such as gravity while heat is being applied to create what we know as rocks. So how is it that the compounds known as RNA and DNA control the process a microbe does. Is it as simple as the RNA creates a protein which stimulates another section of the microbe in just the right way that it does something, and so on and so forth? If that is the case then it is nothing but pure luck that life came about at all.
    It's not that they "knew", it's that the environment knew. Evolution is a process whereby information from the environment passes into a system of lifeforms, shaping them to the "will" of that environment.

    The environment prefers reactions that are self duplicating over reactions that are not. The non-self duplicating ones still arise randomly from time to time, but are not selected for, and therefore do not continue after originally appearing. (Though an identical reaction might randomly appear again later.)
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  9. #8  
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    Paralith said it best, though the answer is almost too simple for words.

    Maybe an analogy would help: You've no doubt heard of the "military industrial complex". Well, how did this entity know to survive and expand? Or, how did the industry of London know to spawn little thriving, evolving versions of itself all over the world, collectively termed the Industrial Revolution?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    I'm confused, is the OP asking about how living things decide to function, or about the formation of life? If it's the latter, nobody really knows, it's theorized it began with self catalytic RNA, but we don't have any examples of what those would be today so it's an educated guess really.

    If it's the former, there is no decision, it just is. A bacteria is a very complicated clockwork mechanism with, depending on the bacterium, facets that respond differently to various environmental conditions. These aren't inherently responses to survive, self replicate, etc. they're just responses. The bacteria that posses responses that favor survival and replication will tend to create more clones than those that don't. In the end, the traits favorable for survival and making offspring simply tend to out-survive those which do the opposite. That's basically it really. We're not really different, yes we have sentience, but sentience itself is simply an emergent property we have that has given us an advantage in survival and breeding, and so it's been kept.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith View Post
    It's quite simple, really. Any organism that didn't do "the right thing" to survive and reproduce, didn't. They didn't live, they didn't leave a line of descendants that lived until today. The only organisms that are around today are the ones whose ancestors happened to do "the right thing."
    You might, in the style of this forum, accuse me of ...eh... anything not respectable ...say... that I show no sign of understanding the principles of evolution. But I honestly think you are formulating the corner stone of evolutionary theory! GOOD WORK!
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith View Post

    That's how natural selection works. You start out with variation, most of it randomly generated. Many individuals that do different things. Some of them don't have stable enough molecules, don't eat the right food, don't avoid the predators. They die. They're gone. What's left are the ones who do have the stable molecules, who do eat the right food, who do avoid the predators. It's probably only a few individuals who have the right combination. They're the only ones that are left who survive, reproduce, and grow in number. They're the ones whose lineage extends through time until today.
    What more is there to say?
    Scrutinising the definition of "the right thing"?
    Is it really always the right thing to survive and reproduce?
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by xToxicInferno View Post
    I know what sentient means. I meant what compelled the microbes to divide and create new microbes. As far as i know theirs is no chemical reaction that causes something to recreate its self.

    The question i am asking is this: How did the FIRST (WITHOUT ANY EVOLUTION OR NATURAL SELECTION TO INFLUENCE IT) microbe know how to split and when to. How was it able to survive. In other words what made it different from any other combination of elements. What caused this haphzard bunch of compounds to "know" how to create a new one of its self. .
    Theres, as yet, two consepts to analyse: Self organisation...crystals form lattices, and auto catalysis...Theres a formula that Ive forgotten ...perhaps somebody can assist? ... but the idea is (I think) that x is involved in a chemical reaction producing more copies of x ...and the copies in turn creates yet more copies and so on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    It's not that they "knew", it's that the environment knew. Evolution is a process whereby information from the environment passes into a system of lifeforms, shaping them to the "will" of that environment.

    The environment prefers reactions that are self duplicating over reactions that are not. The non-self duplicating ones still arise randomly from time to time, but are not selected for, and therefore do not continue after originally appearing. (Though an identical reaction might randomly appear again later.)

    This suggests selection of few while rejecting the lot.

    This also suggests that life creation is continuous and not by accident.
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  14. #13  
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    To xToxic

    You appear to be asking about abiogeneis - the formation of life from non life.
    This is too big a topic to cover in a paragraph or two. I suggest you watch the video below and then post any questions you might still have.

    Abiogenesis - YouTube
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    To xToxic

    You appear to be asking about abiogeneis - the formation of life from non life.
    This is too big a topic to cover in a paragraph or two. I suggest you watch the video below and then post any questions you might still have.

    Abiogenesis - YouTube

    xToxic is absent since last post on 3rd December 2010.
    Last edited by uday yadav; December 24th, 2012 at 02:05 AM.
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