21 Jul

Can Biology Be Based on the Nature of the Soul?

In Vedic philosophy, the soul has three properties—sat or consciousness, chit or meanings, and ananda or pleasure. The sat of the soul is “I am”, the chit of the soul is “I have”, and the ananda of the soul is “I want”. These three aspects of the soul are also reflected in matter and pervade throughout the body—the parts of the body are due to chit or “I have”, the functions of each of the parts is due to sat or “I am”, and the pleasure associated with the functions of the parts is due to ananda or “I want”. Thus, even the world around us is a reflection of the properties of the soul (as parts, functions, and purposes), but they are so deeply enmeshed that we tend to think that the part is itself the function, and the function is itself the purpose. This post discusses the differences between these three aspects of the soul, and its implications for biology.
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28 Mar

Reasoning and Semantic Computation

Since the advent of computers, it has been widely believed that the human mind is just like a computer. I have previously described why this is a false analogy due to two problems: (1) the problem of meaning, and (2) the problem of choice. I have also discussed the problem of meaning in computing theory in the book Gödel’s Mistake. However, all these critiques are inadequate without an understanding of how nature itself computes. For example, if nature is governed by some natural laws, then these laws have to be computed on some machine to obtain a prediction. How is nature computing these predictions? Even otherwise, living beings are constantly involved in decision making—i.e. what next steps must I take to achieve my goals?—which is also a computational problem. This post discusses a proposal on how this problem should be tackled, and the relation between Sāńkhya and computational theory.

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19 Mar

Lessons of Ayurveda for Vedic Cosmology

The previous post discussed the model of the human body in Ayurveda. If you haven’t noticed, the most surprising aspect of Ayurveda is that it remains silent on what modern medicine calls heart, lungs, intestines, brain, pancreas, spleen, etc. It is surprising because modern medical education begins with anatomy and memorizing anatomy is every student’s job in the first year of medical school. Of course, Ayurveda also has a branch called shalya-chikitsa or surgery which relies on anatomy. But for the most part, Ayurveda doesn’t dwell on anatomy because it uses a conceptual model of the body quite different from the perceptual model. This means that the gross body is not the human anatomy as we see it. This fact offers some insights on the Vedic cosmological model too, because the cosmological model is not what we see. Just as a complete description of the human body exists without a description of human anatomy, similarly, a complete description of the cosmic model exists in Vedic cosmology without reference to what we see.

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