All Cells Are Sentient?

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EquALLity
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All Cells Are Sentient?

Post by EquALLity » Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:21 pm

Today, that utilitarian friend (https://theveganatheist.com/forum/viewt ... tuck#p8435), who I haven't spoken as often with recently, came up to me while I was in the library, and pretty quickly brought up veganism.
"You're vegan for ethical reasons, right?"

It's funny, people always remember veganism. :P
I try not to talk about it that much, because I don't want to reinforce preachy-vegan stereotypes, but people always seem to remember that.

So we started talking about it, and he said that he encountered a girl who wasn't a vegetarian because she thought all cells were sentient.
At first, I dismissed it because I thought sentience requires the ability to perceive pain, and cells don't have a central nervous system. However, the definition of sentience doesn't require that (and I don't think it should, because it would mean probably bugs and possibly fish aren't sentient).

So then I said they aren't sentient because they don't have emotions.
"But how do you know they don't have emotions?"
I told him that I really wasn't aware of the science behind emotions, but that every biology professor would dispute that as absurd.

I also mentioned that, even if you grant the idea that cells are all sentient, that because animals are fed plants their entire lives, that killing animals for food causes more harm than killing plants directly, and he accepted that.
I didn't think of this at the time, but I could've also mentioned that we know animals are sentient and feel pain, while we have no reason to believe cells are sentient and that we know they don't feel pain.

Anyway, can anyone explain why cells aren't sentient?
I know it seems ridiculous, but as he pointed out to me, you can't dismiss something just because it seems ridiculous.
"I am not a Marxist." -Karl Marx

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:56 pm

Never mind typical cells, individual nerve cells aren't even sentient; it takes a large collection of neurons in relational structures in the brain to process enough information to result in sentience. There are animals (like some worms, or oysters) with significant nerve clusters that show no conclusive evidence of sentience.

Our modeling of neural networks on computers has helped us understand better how this works recently.

The line is somewhere around worms and small insects.
If a single cell could be sentient, it would undermine the evolved function of brains. Neurons, specifically evolved for billions of years to optimally process information can't process enough to be sentient, but some photosynthetic cell on a leaf can process more information despite having evolved for a completely different purpose and having no need for sentience?

That would be some absurd and incredibly inefficient selection.
Why use so many cells to form a brain and waste all of that energy if single celled organisms can get the job done?

There are also physical limits to information processing imposed by quantum physics (tunneling, noise) in molecular material systems.
We could examine the size and function of various cell parts, and figure out if there's enough room in there for adequate computation to yield sentience to be housed. The answer is an apparent no, unless there's some kind of microchip hiding in cells we're not aware of, and even then: the answer is probably no. There are also energy requirements for processing information to yield sentience, and that's not something that can hide.

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Post by EquALLity » Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:12 pm

Sorry, forgot about this.

I see what you're saying, but to play devil's advocate:
brimstoneSalad wrote: That would be some absurd and incredibly inefficient selection.
Why use so many cells to form a brain and waste all of that energy if single celled organisms can get the job done?
Maybe the brains can do it more efficiently, even though the cells can do it to some extent.
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Mar 16, 2016 12:30 am

EquALLity wrote: Maybe the brains can do it more efficiently, even though the cells can do it to some extent.
Brains are a major resource hog. So, if that's more efficient, then there's a magical source of energy powering cell sentience somewhere (and a magical heatsink), because it's not showing up as waste heat, and the energy isn't coming from the environment.

This would be an essentially supernatural claim. Might as well assume rocks are sentient too.

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Post by EquALLity » Wed Mar 23, 2016 1:22 am

brimstoneSalad wrote:
EquALLity wrote: Maybe the brains can do it more efficiently, even though the cells can do it to some extent.
Brains are a major resource hog. So, if that's more efficient, then there's a magical source of energy powering cell sentience somewhere (and a magical heatsink), because it's not showing up as waste heat, and the energy isn't coming from the environment.

This would be an essentially supernatural claim. Might as well assume rocks are sentient too.
What do you mean by it's not showing up a waste heat? What does that have to do with sentience?

Why would it be supernatural?
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:53 pm

EquALLity wrote: What do you mean by it's not showing up a waste heat? What does that have to do with sentience?
When energy is used for something, it degrades into waste heat. Look at how computers work, and the heat production -- it has to be carried away somewhere.
All information processing requires energy.
EquALLity wrote: Why would it be supernatural?
Because there's no source for the energy fueling it, or place that the energy is going. It would be violating the laws of physics.

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Post by EquALLity » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:40 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:When energy is used for something, it degrades into waste heat. Look at how computers work, and the heat production -- it has to be carried away somewhere.
All information processing requires energy.
Do you have a link about the computer stuff? I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Do you have a source that information processing requires energy?
It seems reasonable, but I'm probably going to need a source to convince my friend.
brimstoneSalad wrote:Because there's no source for the energy fueling it, or place that the energy is going. It would be violating the laws of physics.
No energy source for the cell?
Cells need energy to function, though. They get it through cellular respiration, or whatever. :P
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:33 pm

EquALLity wrote:
brimstoneSalad wrote:Because there's no source for the energy fueling it, or place that the energy is going. It would be violating the laws of physics.
No energy source for the cell?
Cells need energy to function, though. They get it through cellular respiration, or whatever. :P
It's an accounting issue.
Cells have a limited energy source in metabolism or photosynthesis which we can measure very precisely. If you require the cell to do more things, they need more energy.

It's like you met somebody working part time minimum wage who claims 12,000 on his taxes, but supposedly owns a gold plated hummer with spinning rims. Something doesn't add up.

Plant cells already use all of the energy they get from photosynthesis. All energy is basically accounted for in expenses (cellular metabolism and functions like synthesizing proteins and carbohydrates). There's no energy left over to do something as fancy as support sentience.

Like you know this guy who makes 12k pays 800 a month for rent and 400 for food. Where does he get the money for this gold plated hummer?
EquALLity wrote: Do you have a link about the computer stuff? I'm not sure what you're talking about.
This came up high on search results, looks like it might explain logic gates pretty well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95kv5BF2Z9E
You can probably find simpler/shorter videos, though. Just search for stuff on logic gates, or how computers work.

Once you understand the basics of information processing, you realize that it all relies on signals being sent between different nodes, which transform those signals and conduct them to other nodes. Every signal is made from energy (this is unavoidable, either chemically, electrically, or otherwise), and every absorption, transformation, and creation requires more work (power consumption, it's hard to explain these terms since they're technical) to do.
EquALLity wrote: Do you have a source that information processing requires energy?
It seems reasonable, but I'm probably going to need a source to convince my friend.
Your friend is probably not intelligent enough or versed in science to understand any of that stuff, but see above. Signal transmission means energy, and it means changing that signal during processing which means more power use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics

Do you have a good physics teacher at your school? You may refer your friend there to learn about thermodynamics.

More specifically, you might want to see this basic list of theoretical limits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limits_to_computation
There are limits in density of storage, in energy usage, and speed based on quantum physics.

Asserting that a cell may be sentient, you might as well say it's god or powered by the tooth fairy for as much scientific sense that makes.

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Post by garrethdsouza » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:22 am

Every sperm is sacred
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