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Theme 1: Science of Spiritual Biology

(a) Developmental Biology and Consciousness

Developmental biology is the study of the process of growth and development that gives rise to tissues, organs and anatomy of organisms [1]. The whole process is a precise spatio-temporal cognitive activity of organization giving rise to the biological form [2]. In addition to the limited co-participatory role of genes in differentiation and morphogenesis, modern biology recognizes that these are all cognitive activities [3]. All living organisms are endowed with consciousness from the earliest stage up to death [4]. This section of the symposium is intended to invite leading biologists and ‘cognitive biologists’ to highlight new developments in biology leading to the cognitive revolution in the field.

References:
[1] Marx, J.L., The riddle of development. Science, Vol. 226, 1406–1408, (1984b).
[2] Wolff, P.H., The development of behavioral states and the expression of emotions in early infancy: New proposals for investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (1987).
[3] Neville, H. J., Bavelier, D., Specificity and plasticity in neurocognitive development in humans. In Johnson, M.H., Munakata , Y., (Eds.), Brain development and cognition: A reader (2nd ed., pp. 251–271). Malden, MA: Blackwell, (2002).
[4] Abrams, R. M., Griffiths, S. K., Huang, X., Sain, J., Langford, G., Gerhardt, K. K., Fetal music perception: The role of sound transmission. Music Perception, Vol. 15, 307–317, (1998).

(b) Cognitive Biology

Biological phenomena are first and foremost cognitive. All biological forms from the smallest bacteria to human beings are cognitive entities [5]. Artificial intelligence and other analytical concepts do not explain consciousness. Cognitive features like intelligence are found even in organisms which do not possess any brain or nervous system [6]. As brain is not a prerequisite for cognition and as consciousness is ubiquitous in living organisms and the cell as such, the new realization of cognitive development in biology will be that sentience and not-genes are the immediate existential concept of living organisms [7]. Modern research is exploring cognitive abilities in a wide range of organisms and their developmental stages [8, 9]. Results are revealing the wholistic nature and origin of cognitive life of organisms. Different aspects of cognitive biology are perception, learning, spatial cognition, social cognition, the representations of attention etc. Contributors are invited to discuss this topic from the perspectives of cell biology, neuroscience, brain theory, plant cognition, role of cognition in genetics, and developmental science.

References:
[5] Shapiro, J.A., Bacteria are small but not stupid: cognition, natural genetic engineering and socio-bacteriology, Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci., Vol. 38 (2007) 807–819.
[6] Warwick, K., The Quest for Intelligence, Judy Piatkus, (2001).
[7] Hegel, G.W.F., translated by Miller, A.V., Hegel's Science of Logic, 93, Prometheus Books (1991).
[8] Shapiro, J.A., Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, FT Press Science, NJ, USA, (2011)
[9] http://fcmconference.org

(c) Self-Determination and Freewill

The symptom of free will is self-determination [10]. Non-living bodies obey mechanical laws of nature and act according to external forces. But the living organisms utilize physical laws in carrying out their biological functions; therefore physical laws are not sufficient to describe them. For e.g., a bird’s flight path cannot be calculated from Newton's laws of motion [11]. Plants grow above the ground against the force of gravity, i.e. they exhibit negative gravitropism. The movements of organism show self-determinism. Organisms utilize laws of nature to fulfill their ends. This self-determinism is the central feature of all cognitive beings that is never found in non-living objects. Nobel Biologist Barbara McClintock even considered the plants to have a subjective being. Plants know if they are being taken care of. She was convinced that plants can feel pain and joy [12]. Cell can sense its internal errors during metabolism. Even gene defects are recognized and corrected [13]. The conclusion is that organisms have a strong sense of self-recognition and self-identity, and it plays a significant role during its life time. Contributors are invited to discuss this topic from the perspectives of cell biology, plant and animal biology and gene regulation within the cellular context the important role of self-determination or free will, that is leading biologists like Shapiro to come to the deduction that ‘Consciousness’ is the universal and ubiquitous concept of life.
References:
[10] Hegel, G.W.F., Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit, Section One: Subjective Spirit, www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/sssoul.htm
[11] Grandpierre, A., Complexity, information and biological organization. INDESC 3, 59-71, (2005).
[12] Keller, E. F., A feeling for the organism, The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock, W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.
[13] McClintock, B., The significance of responses of the genome to challenge, Nobel lecture, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, U.S.A., (8 Dec., 1983).

(d) Body, Mind and Consciousness

Mind has never been demonstrated to be merely a result of complex organization of matter [14]. Yet leading biologists like McClintock have recognized organisms as subjective beings. The conclusion is that life constitutes a subject-object unity [10, 15]. Mind and Body are constitutively an organic whole in living organisms. We are forced to study not only the bio-molecular functions of DNA, RNA and Proteins but also the perceptual process that goes along with it. This is a ubiquitous problem of biology. It is observed at all levels of biological structure and their functionality [16]. Although Descartes created a dualism between the mind and body, i.e. res cogitans and res extensa, the scientific and philosophical difficulties in overcoming the dilemma has forced many biologists and philosophers to reconsider Aristotelian concepts of living organisms in terms of soul as the first principle of living organisms [17]. The mind-body problem is reminiscent of the ‘One and Many’ problem [18]. Issues in mind-body problem lead us to ask, "What then is Consciousness." The very interesting field of study which tries to explain the mind-body totality in terms of consciousness is extremely diverse. Modern biologists are forced to learn the hard way within the last 50 years due to progress in biology. The repeated failures of all genetic and mechanistic explanations to get a concrete comprehension of biological phenomenon, has given a scientific platform to consider mind-body problem afresh [19]. The practical value of this is not only in researching the cause of diseases and their cures but also the search for a comprehensive biological concept of life.  Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from perspectives of biology, psychology, semiotics and other practical resources.
References:
[10] Hegel, G.W.F., Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit, Section One: Subjective Spirit, www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/sssoul.htm
[14] Merrell, F., Life before matter, possible signification before tangible signs: Toward a Mediating View, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol. 4, nos. 1-2, (2008).
[15] Hegel, G.W.F., translated by Miller, A.V., Hegel's Science of Logic, 1638, Prometheus Books (Dec. 1, 1991).
[16] Crick, F., Koch, C., A framework for consciousness, Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 6, No. 2, (2003).
[17] Depew, D., Consequence Etiology and Biological Teleology in Aristotle and Darwin, Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol.Biom. Sc., Vol. 39, 379–390, (2008).
[18] Plato, 'Parmenides', 370 B.C.E, Translated by Benjamin Jowett.
[19] Crick, F., Koch, C., Feature Article, Consciousness and Neuroscience, Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 8, 97–107; 1047–3211/98, The Salk Institute and Computation and Neural Systems Program, California Institute of Technology, USA, (Mar. 1998).

(e) Bioinformatics and Consciousness

Traditionally bioinformatics attempted to explain the living phenomenon in terms of information contained in genes and its integration with the whole cell and environment [20]. Much work in the field has been merely modeling biological information. Shannon's concept of information deals with only probabilities [21]. Yet living information must deal with additional requirements like understanding and cognition [22]. Human genome project has further contributed to the field by yielding many surprises. It has stressed the importance of functionality of genes as dynamic structures with epi-genetic and extra-genomic contributions. Genes do not exist as fixed entities [23]. With the recognition of cognitive control of bio-informatics, the problem becomes integrated with other well known problems of biology leading to a search for describing informatics additionally in terms of semantics. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from perspectives of biology, informatics, mathematics, semiotics and semantics.
References:
[20] Shannon, C.E., 'A Mathematical Theory of Communication', The Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 27, 379–423, 623–656, (1948).
[21] Yockey, H. P., Information theory, evolution, and the origin of life, Cambridge University Press, New York, U. S. A., (2005).
[22] Biro, J. C., Biological Information—Definitions from a Biological Perspective, Information, 2, 117-139, (2011).
[23] The ENCODE Project Consortium. 2007. Identification and analysis of functional elements in 1% of the human genome by the ENCODE pilot project. Nature, Jun, 14, Vol. 447(7146), 799–816, (2007).

(f) Understanding Biodiversity from 21st Century Biology

Traditionally in science biodiversity was explained in terms of phylogeny. Since 21st century biology views organisms as sentient beings, it is necessary to consider the role of consciousness in explaining biodiversity [24, 25].  Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of biology.
References:
[24] Lanza, R., Berman, B., Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, BenBella Books, May 18, (2010).
[25] Miller, A.V. (translator), Hegel's Philosophy of Nature: Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Part II, Oxford University Press Inc., New York, (2004).

(g) Systems Biology and Consciousness

Organism as a term has a much broader community-based or systemic meaning than the significance given by traditional perspectives based on the idea that each organism has its own separate, vertically inherited genome [26]. The biological concept looks for integrative cognitive networks, cellular functions for self-modification as well as environment as the totality of living organisms and Nature. The emphasis is systemic rather than atomistic and information-based rather than stochastic [8]. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of genetics, developmental biology, systems biology etc.
References:
[8] Shapiro, J.A., Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, FT Press Science, NJ, USA, (2011)
[26] Queller, D.C., Strassmann, J.E. Beyond society: the evolution of organismality, Philos Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci., Vol. 364, 3143-55, (2009).

(h) Origin of Life

Abiogenesis and biogenesis are two contentious concepts in origin of life debate. Due to failure of abiogenesis in explaining the origin of replication, metabolism as well as cell structure, the scientific humility is forcing scientists to consider that we need something new [27]. Physics and chemistry only establish that life cannot be explained exclusively in such terms. The major realization is that the immediate existential concept of life is consciousness. But abiogenesis could not even scratch the outer surface of conscious substantiality [28]. Cognitive revolution is proving that biogenesis, or 'life comes from life' is the actual scientific concept of Origin of life. The Origin of life field is very broad and it gives room to deeper concepts that should integrate mind, body and consciousness. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives from chemistry, origin of life research, mathematics and physics.
References:
[27] Woese, C. R., A New Biology for a New Century, Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, Vol. 68, No. 2, 173–186, (Jun., 2004).
[28] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, Translated by J. H. Bernard, New York: Hafner Publishing, (1951).

(i) Soul Hypothesis

The ancient Indic Science of Vedanta explains that one must go in the direction of Spiritual evolution of consciousness in the search for secret of life. Hegel explained that consciousness awakens in the soul [29]. Srila Prabhupada explained that each and every body is the embodiment of an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul's presence is perceived as individual consciousness [30]. Srila Sridhar Maharaja explained that everything manifests from within consciousness [31]. However, searching the direction of matter has frustrated all attempts to uncover the secret of life. There have been attempts to reconcile biology with philosophy due to problems encountered in settling issues with evo-devo, realization of forest rather than a tree of life, lack of supportive fossil records (fossil record suffers from four major problems: (1) stasis, (2) sudden appearance of forms, (3) sudden disappearance of forms and (4) no intermediate species) and lack of mechanism of life. Moreover all organisms display sentient qualities like sensing, intelligence and purposefulness. The deeper understanding of biology can be realized if the science of soul is introduced in universities and colleges as the legitimate concept of life. The substantiality of the soul is thinking, feeling and willing [32]. Aristotle gave a concept of the soul from empirical considerations as a concept to be deduced from the actual phenomenon observed in life. Aristotle laid much importance to finding the totality of the causal form for delineating the science of the soul [33]. Aristotelian and Hegelian concepts have much potential to be integrated with the Vedantic concept in light of the demands of a scientific structure to discover the laws that govern wholism, consciousness and higher subjective realities like desire. The science of soul will study the spiritual evolution of consciousness. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of Biology, Philosophy, Vedanta and other Religions.
References:
[29] Hegel, G.W.F., Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit, Preliminary Concepts, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/ssintrod.htm
[30] Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A. C., Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 2, Verse 17, Commentary and Translations, BBT. http://vedabase.net/bg/2/17/en1
[31] Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja, Subjective evolution of consciousness, Page 49, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Ananta Printing and Publishing 2827 S. Rodeo Gulch Rd. #3, Soquel, California 95073. http://www.scsmath.com/books/Subjective_Evolution.pdf
[32] ibid, page 22.
[33] Sorabji, R., Body and Soul in Aristotle, Philosophy, Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal Institute of Philosophy, Vol. 49, No. 187, 63-89, (Jan 1974).

Theme 2: Scientific Critique of Science 

(a) Logic of Life

The current inability of science and scientists to address this problem – ‘What is life?’ and their complete failure in explaining how life arose from inorganic matter means that logic of life has to be approached from a different level [34]. Life does not follow either mechanical or chemical laws. Kant had enumerated two kinds of mechanical inexplicability of life. Mechanical systems are abstract idealization and are linear systems [35]. For many body problems these laws become inexact as they are governed by chaos and indeterminism [36]. A chemical system is governed by relativity of relations. Acid and base are defined in relation to one another. Hence their unity is more intrinsic unlike a mechanical system whose unity is external. Life has to be understood teleologically. That is all Kant showed [37]. Perception and consciousness are additional levels of reality in life. Hegel contributed with his science of logic. Sripad Ramanuja Acharya and Sripad Baladeva Vidyabhusana also contributed with commentaries on Vedanta Sutra. They have described logic of life as a dependent manifestation (part and parcel) of the Supreme Absolute Personality who is the original non-dual Whole Truth (Advaya-jnana tattva) [38]. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of Biology, Philosophy, Vedanta and other Religions.
References:
[34] Putnam, H., 'Two dogmas' revisited. In: Gilbert Ryle, Contemporary Aspects of Philosophy. Stocksfield, Oriel Press, 202–213, (1976).
[35] Ginsborg, H., Two Kinds of Mechanical Inexplicability in Kant and Aristotle, Journal of the History of Philosophy, Vol. 42, No. 1, 33–65, (2004).
[36] Puri, B., M., Worlds in Collision: The Stability of the Solar System: The Revolutionary Science of Spiritual Cosmology, The Harmonizer, Jan, (2013). http://mahaprabhu.net/satsanga/?download=Harmonizer_January_2013.pdf
[37] Puri, B., M., The Logic of Life, Science and Scientist, Bhaktivedanta Institute Newsletter, Jan – Mar.,  (2008). http://scienceandscientist.org/download.php?get=Science_and_Scientist-2008_Issue-1.pdf
[38] Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Swami, A.C., Srimad-Bhagavatam, verse 1.1.1, BBT, www.vedabase.net/sb/1/1/1

(b) Man and Machine

The exponential growth of computing power gave a scope for putting to test whether consciousness can be explained as an analytical concept. Can machines become as smart as people? Can they experience and have feelings of joy, victory etc. These questions have urged a great variety of scientists like Turing, von Neumann and others to propose various arguments through computation and models of artificial intelligence [39, 40]. Can Consciousness be reduced to an easy problem because all that is then required is to specify a mechanism and an algorithmic process that can perform that function. On the other hand harder problems are subjective experience, qualia, awareness of sensory information etc. [41]. Man and machine problem is meant to demonstrate that consciousness is fundamental and not merely elusive. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of Biology, Philosophy, Vedanta, Mathematics, Computer Science and Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Semeiosis etc.
References:
[39] Bedau, M., A., Artificial life: organization, adaptation and complexity from the bottom up, Review, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol.7 No.11 Nov., (2003).
[40] von Neumann, J., Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, University of Illinois Press, (1966).
[41] Harnad, S., Correlation vs. Causality: How/Why the Mind/Body Problem Is Hard, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 7(4), 54-61, (2000).

(c) Debunking Darwinism

The 21st century study of evolution is much broader than what Darwin might have considered in the 19th century. Darwin based his idea on random generation of mutations, accumulation of those errors and natural selection. Darwin's proof rested on fossil records, morphology, comparative anatomy, homology, analogy observed in embryology, paleontology, geographical distribution, taxonomy, missing links etc. However 21st century biology raises many questions against the very simplistic mechanistic views of Darwin. Darwinism in different forms today is entangled in many polemics including horizontal gene transfer, viral vectors etc. [42, 43]. The new non-mechanistic, wholistic and cognitive paradigm, along with stasis and sudden appearance in fossil data [44] has allowed mainstream scientists to dissent from Darwin and consider more living concepts of Religion. Scientific evidence proves that conservation and not divergence of species is the guiding theme of the ability of adaptation in organisms [45]. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of modern evolutionary concepts as well as from all other scientific fields which are relevant to critical assessment that are going on in the study of diversity of living forms.
References:
[42] Puri, B.M., Muni, B.V., Shanta, B.N., Spiritual Biology: Reply to Critics – Part One, The Harmonizer, Dec. 2012, Published by Sri Chaitanya Saraswat math and Bhakti Vedanta Institute. http://www.mahaprabhu.net/satsanga/Newsletters/Harmonizer_December_2012.pdf
[43] Boto, L., Horizontal gene transfer in evolution: facts and challenges, Proc. R. Soc. B, Vol. 277, 819-827, 28 Oct., (2009).
[44] Eldredge, N., Gould, S. J., Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism. In T.J.M. Schopf, ed., Models in Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman Cooper. pp. 82-115, (1972). Reprinted in N. Eldredge Time frames. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985, 193-223.
[45] Puri, B., M., The Science of Spiritual Biology, The Harmonizer, Nov., (2012), Published by Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and Bhakti Vedanta Institute. http://mahaprabhu.net/satsanga/?download=Harmonizer_November_2012.pdf

(d) Failure of Genetic Determinism - Life Beyond Genes

McClintock, Nobel laureate in Medicine has demonstrated through her work on transposons that genes were not the foundational concept of life [13, 46]. Crick had already predicted that if unknown transfers of the central dogma were occurring in nature, then it would shake the foundations of biology [47]. This has put the cell and the organism back to the centre stage. It is not possible to derive any genomic or other molecular units for life [48]. The genetic substance itself is a dynamic structure and functions as a co-participating member in the totality of organism. Modern biology has deduced that life is to be seen as a totality of organism, environment and nature [49, 50]. It is a web of life and no organism can be considered in isolation. Therefore how much of the living function is determined in the genes is a question [51]. This failure means we have to consider life from a different perspective in a call for new biology which to us will be assigning a fundamental role to consciousness in order to account for its subject-object unity [24, 52]. We have to include higher concepts like intelligence, mind, desire and free will within biology for studying what really determines the organism and biodiversity [53]. Contributors are invited to submit their views and papers to discuss this topic from various perspectives of modern genetics, cell biology and from all other scientific fields which are relevant to critical assessment in the study of structure, functionality and definition of organisms.
References:
[13] McClintock, B., The significance of responses of the genome to challenge, Nobel lecture, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, U.S.A., (8 Dec., 1983).
[24] Lanza, R., Berman, B., Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, BenBella Books, May 18, (2010).
[46] Gingeras, T. R., Origin of phenotypes: Genes and transcripts, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 17:682–690, (2007). www.genome.org
[47] Crick, F., Central dogma of molecular biology. Nature, Vol. 227, 561-563, (1970).
[48] Shapiro, J. A., Genome Informatics: The Role of DNA in Cellular Computations, Biological Theory, Vol. 1(3), 288–301, (2006).
[49] Noble, D., The music of life: Biology beyond the genome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 176, (2006).
[50] Gilbert S. O., Grand Challenges and Great Opportunities in Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Science, Vol. 314 no. 5806 pp. 1696-1704, (15 Dec., 2006).
[51] Ford, B. J., Are Cells ingenious?, Microscope, Vol. 52:3/4, 135-144, (2004).
[52] Hegel, G.W.F., Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit, Section one: Subjective spirit., 367 http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/sspirit.htm
[53] Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, A. C., Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 7, Verse 4 and 5, Commentary and Translations, BBT. http://www.asitis.com/7/4.html

(e) Failure of Biologism or Biological Determinism