Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 14, No 3 (2018)

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Downward Causation: Control Theory, Symmetry Breaking, Quantum Field Theory, and Neurodynamics

David Bernal-Casas, Seán Ó Nualláin


There is considerable consensus that any putative new paradigm for biology will involve control theory as a means to traverse hierarchies. There is considerably less consensus about how a disincarnate observer can initiate a chain of downward causation starting with a quantum mechanics measurement and propagating down to palpable effects, not just in the motor system but in the intricate connections between the immune and nervous systems. In this paper, we begin by outlining the Bionoetics framework in a historical context and continue by formalizing the interaction between the brain considered as a large set of basins of attraction (or quantum field theory ground states), the differential readiness of neurons to fire described in neurodynamics, and the motor system. We go on to describe the traversal of hierarchies in living systems that mean ultimately that there are different "biologies" to formalize at each level. Finally, we speculate about the pervasiveness of the causal effects of human intention.

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