CONS ZG541: Biology and Consciousness

The course explores various behavioral studies conducted on animals and insects to answer the following questions: What is the extent of animal cognition? Do they have purposive behavior? Do they communicate through semantic symbols? Do animals have consciousness? The nature of life, which is closely related to consciousness, is also discussed through topics such as the linear genetic paradigm, epigenetics, morphogenesis, biological information, the origin and evolution of life and consciousness.

Instructors:  Greg Anderson, M.S.; Kanwaljeet Kaur, M.S.

Evaluation Components:

  • Quiz on Module I: 10 marks
  • Quiz on Module II: 10 marks
  • Midterm: 20 marks
  • Classroom participation and Paper presentation in Module III: 3+7 marks
  • Quiz on Module IV: 10 marks
  • Comprehensive Exam: 40 marks

Number of Classroom Hours: 45

Lecture Modules:

Module I: Are Animals Consciousness?

Lecture 1: Behaviorism and avoidance of animal consciousness; Definition of perceptual consciousness vs. reflective consciousness; philosophical background; Clever Hans and inadvertent cueing (Chapter 1 of Griffin; Chapter 1 and pp 32-37 of Allen and Bekoff; supplementary: Chap 1, Dawkins; Allen (2004))

Lecture 2: Examples of Perceptual consciousness in animals (Chapter 2-5, Griffin); Examples of concepts in animals (Chapter 6 of Griffin, pp. 105-119, Dawkins)

Lecture 3: Social Play and Antipredatory Behavior (Chap 6 and 7, Allen and Bekoff); Communication between bees (Chap 9, Griffin; pp. 89-96, Dawkins; pp. 112-131, Michelson);

Lecture 4: Communication between monkeys; word usuage by a parrot (pp. 154-164, p. 169-174, Griffin; pp. 119-139, Dawkins); Communication between chimpanzees and human beings (Chap 11, Griffin; pp 65-89, Dawkins; Savage-Rumbaugh)

Lecture 5: Theory of mind in primates (Heyes; Chap 10, Tomasello and Call ) Discussion; Conclusions (Chap 8-9, Allen and Bekoff; Chap 6 Dawkins)

Lecture 6: Claims of plant consciousness (Nagel; Tompkins and Bird; supplementary: Bose); Bacterial chemotaxis (Koshland), claims of learning in paramecia (Wichterman 1953, 1986); intelligence at the level of cells (Albrecht-Buehler 1984, 1995)

 

Module II: Alternatives to Molecular Biology and the Linear Genetic Paradigm

Lecture 7: What is the nature of life? Reductionism, mechanism, vitalism, organicism

Lecture 8: Rosen’s relational biology and his analysis of the machine metaphor for life; introduction to category theory, ‘nonfractionability’; the Sequence Hypothesis (Rosen 1991)

Lecture 9: Polanyi: Life’s irreducible structure

Lecture 10: Systems Biology; Problems with the linear genetic paradigm for life (Strohman)

 

Module III: Biology and Information

Lecture 11: Introduction to Molecular Biology: gene regulation; DNA replication; genetic recombination; RNA processing; translation (Watson)

Lecture 12: Genetic Information: The central dogma of molecular biology (Crick); chemical information in DNA (Watson)

Lecture 13: Epigenetic information: structural inheritance system; chromatin marking; epigenetic fungal prions; adaptive mutation; genomic imprinting; transmission of epigenetic information thru meiosis (Jablonka and Lamb)

Lecture 14: Notion of information in Biology (Maynard Smith, Sterelny et al.)

Lecture 15: Rejection of the conception of information in DNA (Sarkar, Oyama)

Lecture 16: Meaningful information in Biology (Reading)

Lecture 17: Introduction to Biosemiotics (Barbieri)

 

Module IV: Origin and Evolution of Life/Consciousness

Lecture 18: The problem of the origin of form (Webster/Goodwin)

Lectures 19-20: Toward a science of form in biology; rational morphology, morphogenesis (Webster/Goodwin), field explanations; homology (deBeer 1971)

Lectures 21-22: Origin of life; Is self-organization of matter possible? (Zubay)

Lecture 23: Evolution of consciousness (pp. 129-136, Flanagan; Humphrey; Cairns-Smith)

Lecture 24: Form and function (Asma, Chap 1-5)

 

Literature:

Albrecht-Buehler, G., 1995. ‘Changes of cell behavior by near-infrared signals’ Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton 32: 299-304.

Albrecht-Buehler, G., 1992. 'Rudimentary form of cellular “vision”', Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 89:8288-8292.

Albrecht-Buehler, G., 1991. 'Surface extensions of 3T3 cells towards distant infrared light sources.' Journal of Cell Biology 114: 493-502.

Albrecht-Buehler, G., 1985. ‘Is cytoplasm intelligent too?’ In Cell and Muscle Motility (edited by J.W. Shay ), Volume 6, Plenum Press: New York and London, pp. 1-21. ok

Allen, C.; Bekoff, M., 1997. Species of Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Cognitive Ethology, MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Allen, C., 2004. “Animal Consciousness” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-animal/

Asma, S. T., 1996. Following Form and Function, Northwestern University Press: Illinois.

Barkai, N.; Leibler, S., 1998. 'Bacterial chemotaxis: united we sense. . . .' Nature 393: 18-19.

Bose, J.C., 1907. Comparative Electro-physiology, Longmans, Green and Co.: New York, Bombay, Calcutta.

Cairns-Smith, A.G., 1996. Evolving the Mind : on the Nature of Matter and the Origin of Consciousness, Cambridge University Press: New York.

Chang, Jiin-Ju; Fisch, Joachim; Popp, Fritz Albert (eds), 1998. Biophotons, Kluwer: Boston

Crick, F.H.C., 1958. ‘On Protein Synthesis’, Symposium of the Society for Experimental Biology, Vol. 2,  pp 138-163.

Dawkins, Marian Stamp, 1993. Through Our Eyes Only?: The Search for Animal Consciousness, W.H. Freeman: Oxford, etc.

De Beer, Gavin, 1971. Homology, An Unsolved Problem, Oxford U.P.: Oxford

Flanagan, O., 1992. Consciousness Reconsidered, MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Foster, P.L., 1999. ‘Mechanisms of stationary phase mutation: a decade of adaptive mutation’, Annual Reviews in Genetics, 33: 57-88.

Griffin, D. R., 2001. Animal Minds. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, London

Griesemer, J., 1998. ‘A review of epigenetic inheritance by Jablonka and Lamb’, Biology and Philosophy 13: 103-112.

Heyes, C.M., 1998. ‘Theory of mind in nonhuman primates’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 21:101-114.

Humphrey, N., 1992. A History of the Mind. Simon and Schuster: New York, etc.

Keller, E. Fox, 1998. ‘A review of epigenetic inheritance by Jablonka and Lamb’, Biology and Philosophy. 13: 113-118.

Keller, E. Fox, 2000. In Controlling Our Destinies: Historical, Philosophical, Ethical and Theological Perspectives on the Human Genome Project (Edited by Phillip R. Sloan) Univ. of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame.

Koshland, D.E., 1980. Chemotaxis As a Model Behavioral System, Raven Press: New York.

Jablonka, E.; Lamb, M.J., 1995. Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution: the Lamarckian Dimension, Oxford U.P.: New York.

Jablonka, E.; Lamb, M.J., 1998. ‘Epigenetic inheritance in evolution’, Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 11:159-183. see also commentaries pp. 184-260.

Jablonka, E.; Lamb, M.J.; Avital, E. 1998. ‘ “Lamarckian” mechanisms in Darwinian evolution’, Trends Ecol. Evol. 13(5):206-10.

Lehman, H., 1978. Biology in Transition: A Critical Inquiry, Exposition Press: Hickville, NY, pp. 1-50.

Lenton, T.M., 1998. ‘Gaia and natural selection’ Nature, 394: 439-447.

Lewin, B., 1994, Genes V, Oxford U.P. : Oxford

Lotish, H.; Berk, A; Zipursky, S.L.; Matsudaira, P.; Baltimore, D.; Darnell, J., 2000, Molecular Cell Biology, (4th Edition) W.H. Freeman: New York.

Maynard Smith, J., 2000, “The Concept of Information in Biology”, Philosophy of Science, 37: 177-194.

McGue, M., 1997. ‘The democracy of genes’ Nature, 388: 417-418.

Michelson, A., 1999. ‘The dance language of honeybees: recent findings and problems.’ In The Design of Animal Communication (edited by M.D. Hauser, M. Konishi) MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 111-131.

Matsuzawa, T., 1999. ‘Communication and tool use in chimpanzees: cultural and social contexts.’ In The Design of Animal Communication (edited by M.D. Hauser, M. Konishi) MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp 645-671.

Nagel, A., 1997. ‘Are plants conscious?’ Journal of Consciousness Studies 4(3): 215-230.

Oyama, S.,1985. The Ontogeny of Information, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Polanyi, M. 1968. ‘Life’s irreducible structure’ Science 160: 1308-1312

Popp, Fritz-Albert; Beloussov Lev (eds), 2003. Integrative Biophysics : Biophotonics, Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston

Radner, D.; Radner, M. 1996. Animal Consciousness, Prometheus Books: Amherst, New York.

Reading A., Meaningful Information: The Bridge between Biology, Brain and Behavior, Springer New York Dordrecht Heidelberg London, 2011

Ridley, M. 1999. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 chapters Harper Collins: New York.

Rosen, R., 1991. Life Itself. A Comprehensive Inquiry into the Nature, Origin and Fabrication of Life, Columbia Univ Press: New York.

Rosen, R. 1994. 'What is biology?' Computers Chem. 18: 345-352.

Rosen, R., 2000. Essays on Life Itself Columbia U.P.: New York

Rubin, H., 1987. ‘Molecular biology running into a cul-de-sac?’ Nature 335: 121.

Rubin, H., 1990. 'On the nature of enduring modifications induced in cells and organisms', Am. J. Physiol. 258 (Lung Cell. Mol. Physiol. 2): L19-L24.

Rubin, H.; Farber, E., 1991. 'Cellular adaptation in the origin and development of cancer'. Cancer Research 51: 2751-2761.

Sarkar S. (ed.), 1996. The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives, Kluwer Academic Publisher: the Netherlands, pp 187-21

Sattler, R. 1986. Biophilosophy: analytic and holistic perspectives, Springer-Verlag: Berlin, etc. recopy

Savage-Rumbaugh, S; Lewin, R. 1994. Kanzi: the ape at the brink of the human min,. Wiley: New York, etc.

Schaffner, K.F. 2000. ‘Reductionism and Determinism in Human Genetics: Lessons from Simple Organisms.’ In Controlling Our Destinies: Historical, Philosophical, Ethical and Theological Perspectives on the Human Genome Project (Edited by Phillip R. Sloan) Univ. of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, p. 301-326.

Seyfarth, R.M.; Cheney, D.L. ‘Production, usage, and response in nonhuman primate vocal development’ and ‘Mechanisms underlying the vocalization of nonhuman primates’ In The Design of Animal Communication (edited by M.D. Hauser, M. Konishi) MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp.391-417 and 629-644.

Sterelny K., 2000. ‘The “Genetic Program”: A Commentary of Maynard Smith on Information in Biology’, Philosophy of Science, 67(2), pp 195-200.

Strohman, R.C. 1994. ‘Epigenesis: the missing beat in biotechnology’ Bio/Technology 12:156-164

Strohman, R. C. 1993. ‘Ancient genomes, wise bodies, unhealthy people: limits of a genetic paradigm in biology and medicine.’ Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 37 (Autumn): 112-145.recopy

Tomasello, M., Call, J. 1997. Primate Cognition Oxford University Press: New York.

Tompkins, P.; Bird, C., 1973. The Secret Life of Plants Harper and Row Publ.: New York, etc.

Watson J.D., 2008. Molecular Biology of the Gene, W.A. Benjamin, Inc., Menlo Park, California, U.S.A. . Sixth edition.

Webster, G; Goodwin, B. 1997. Form and transformation: generative and relational principles in biology Cambridge U.P.: Cambridge.

Wichterman, R. 1953, 1986. The Biology of Paramecium, Plenum Press: New York, p. 237-238.

Zubay, G. 2000. Origins of Life on the Earth and in the Cosmos (2nd edition) Academic Press: San Diego, etc.