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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
So let us celebrate James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. Not just as scientists — their very real contributions speak for themselves — but as people with true courage and integrity. They withstood the pressure of fellow scientists turning on them. It would have been easy to drop the whole thing and say that it was a flawed hypothesis — giving themselves credit for being good Popperian scientists. But they knew there was something there that needed explaining and they had the guts to stick with it —Lovelock particularly, but Margulis too. Were they ‘holy fools’? The very friendly, entirely British Lovelock is as far from being a character in a Dostoyevsky novel as I can imagine. But in a sense they were just that, and ultimately science benefits from their thinking. Scientifically respectable or not, the Gaia hypothesis has made our culture richer for its boldness. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and sometimes it is better to be a little foolish than to stick to the safe, angelic, path.
Several theories of conscious first described about a decade ago, including the conscious electromagnetic information (CEMI) field theory, claimed that the substrate of consciousness is the brain’s electromagnetic (EM) field. These theories were prompted by the observation, in many diverse systems, that synchronous neuronal firing, which generates coherent EM fields, was a strong correlate of attention, awareness and consciousness. However, when these theories were first described there was no direct evidence that synchronous firing was actually functional, rather than an epiphenomenon of brain function. Additionally, any EM field-based consciousness would be a ‘ghost in the machine’ unless the brain’s endogenous EM field is also able to influence neurone firing. Once again, when these theories were first described, there was only indirect evidence that the brain’s EM field influenced neuron firing patterns in the brain. In this paper I describe recent experimental evidence which demonstrate that synchronous neuronal firing does indeed have a functional role in the brain; and also that brain’s endogenous EM field is involved in recruiting neurones to synchronously firing networks. The new data point to a new and unappreciated form of neural communication in the brain that is likely to have significance for all theories of consciousness. I describe an extension of the cemi field theory that incorporates these recent experimental findings and integrates the theory with the ‘communication through coherence’ hypothesis.