1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics / matter and the mind

  1. Aug 10, 2012 #1
    I wasn't sure if this is the right section to put this, but I didn't notice an obvious alternative.

    Anyway, I've been wondering about the mind. We're made out of loads of little bits of ordinary, inanimate matter. Somehow in this universe it is possible to take some particles and carefully arrange them in such a configuration that it generates the mind, this abstract "arena" where thoughts can be expressed, senses experienced, emotions felt and so on. At some point, an automatic chemical reaction beginning with, if I'm not mistaken, simple self-replicating molecules, takes on increasing levels of organisation and becomes complicated enough for the first hints of "consciousness"/"awareness" to emerge. Many further iterations and complications happen and eventually you get a fully fledged, conscious human mind.

    My question is, are there any plausible physics-based explanations for how this occurs?
    Or are we to accept that something actually exists outside of physical reality?

    This seems to me like a really massive (and fascinating) headache that I have never personally heard anyone bring up before, never mind attempt to explain. To me this seems like a question that should really be being asked so often that it is as cliche'd as wondering whether a "deity" is responsible for the universe coming into existence.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2012 #2
    I think it's believed that the first biological molecules were borne of chance, basically their lifeless components happened to bump into each other in pools of water.
    But to the point, I think at the basic level brain function is quite simple, i.e. this signal goes here that signal goes there. But as a conglomerate of basic functions they allow more advanced thoughts.
    Could anyone more learned in biology step in for a second?
  4. Aug 10, 2012 #3
    Maybe would be more reasonable to ask this in the Biology sub-forum?

    One possibility is simply "emergence". Try googling the term. It means the sum is greater than the parts. When you place a sufficient number of sufficiently complex units together, something more than just the sum of those parts "emerges". Some think this is how the mind comes into existence from a sufficiently complex neural assembly.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2012
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook