Naturalism, Panpsychism, and Science

This post is unusual in several ways, especially since the author is in the ID camp and not friendly to biblical creation science. Links are given here for information and to try to prompt readers to think. Although creation is not mentioned, the subject is still of interest to creationists.

Scientists are considering the idea that less complex living things may actually be sentient. (Some are even pondering the idea of sentience in cells, but that idea seems to be too much too soon.) Insects have tiny brains, but show intelligence in facial recognition, for example.

Wildflowers in Oneonta Forest Preserve, Unsplash / Cowboy Bob Sorensen (modified at PhotoFunia)
Materialism is the belief that material is all that exists, no God or spirits, and naturalism is its kid brother. That is, nature is all that exists. New word alert: panpsychism. This belief is that all living things have some consciousness.

Although there does not appear to be any real conflict between naturalism and panpsychism, Lars Chittka rang Jerry Coyne's bell with his panpsychism-friendly material. Coyne may be uncomfortable because there are many instances where fish-to-fool evolutionary thinking exhibits animism or even pantheism. So, maybe one form of naturalism is conflicting with another form? Most naturalists reject the idea that consciousness is something that is not material, a mere function of the brain. That threatens Papa Darwin. At any rate, they have no use for the Creator.
At his blog, Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne gives the question some thought. Lars Chittka, Queen Mary University sensory ecologist and author of The Mind of a Bee (Princeton University Press, 2022), argues that bees “feel and think” — a point he developed last year at Scientific American. Chittka offers,

To see what he offers and the responses, click on "A Darwinian Biologist Winces at Bees That Have Feelings." Be sure to come back for the next part.

When I was tromping through the trails in the forests (inadvertently testing my heart surgery as well), I couldn't hear the chatter that was going on around me. There is a great deal of communication among plants, and some scientists have cleverly called it the Wood Wide Web. As you might expect, this network is a fairly recent discovery. Does it mean plants are sentient?

Andre Kessler is promoting the idea that goldenrod (ragweed, a bane of allergy sufferers) is intelligent. Like bees, it reacts to stimuli, and other goldenrod plants react to the reactions. He also compares plant cells to bees and colonies. Something important in all of this is definitions. Consciousness, sentience, intelligence. Like the word evolution, there are varying definitions, so they should be nailed down so folks can communicate. Kessler did that with intelligence and plants.

When I say that panpsychism (everything is conscious) is slowly gaining ground in science against traditional naturalism (even human consciousness is an illusion), some readers may wonder, is anything really changing…?

Well, a science journal paper publicized last month argues for intelligence in plants:

 Read the rest at "Evolutionary Biologist Defines Goldenrod Plant as "Intelligent'." We will be hearing more about panpsychism and science in the future.