Campbell, in his book entitled Biology he says, “Probably the safest answer is that viruses have both living and non-living characteristics.” So, even viruses are borderline cases when it comes down to defining life! The very fact that they can reproduce themselves, to me, puts them a dimensional leap above anything any mineral can do. Therefore, the world of vegetable life relates to the 2nd dimension of space. I consider the simplest of unicellular organisms, right through to the most complex orchids and carnivorous plants to be on the same level of perception.
The 2nd dimension in space is a surface or plane. In the same way that a line is made up of an infinite number of points, a surface is made up of an infinite number of lines arranged in parallel with each other. One very important point is that the direction of the 2nd dimension in relation to the 1st is that it runs at 90° to it. The importance of this angular change in direction will become more apparent as we move up the hierarchy towards more familiar territory. Another important pattern is that an infinite number of parts become a unit when viewed from the dimension above.
I am suggesting that all vegetable life perceives the outside world in a 2 dimensional reality. One dimension in space, the 2nd is time. (This concept is impossible for us to perceive in a literal sense, due to our familiarity with 3 dimensions of space.) All vegetable life exhibits instincts. They can re-act to their environment in many ways, but due to their limited sensory organs, they blindly feel the world around them. As mentioned earlier, this is a dimensional leap above the mineral world, which only has physical existence as concrete attribute.
Even the most complex plant life on Earth cannot be said to be aware of its environment. All plants have varying degrees of instinctive reactions to their particular environment called tropisms. The ability to put down roots is a geo-tropism; light seeking is called phototropism etc. Some plants can easily outwit supposedly more intelligent creatures. I have a collection of carnivorous plants that never fails to entertain my ghoulish curiosity, in the majestic but violent struggle to survive. Sugar rich secretions, just out of reach in a lethally slippery vertical tube has become a deathtrap to many flying insects, but not all visitors to Sarrencia fall in. The point I’m trying to make is that no matter how ingeniously bog plants have evolved over millions of years, they as individuals had no awareness of that apparent ingenuity. They have evolved with the help of so-called serendipitous (beneficial but accidental) genetic mutations, but more on this later.
ANIMALS= THIRD DIMENSION
All animal life exhibits awareness. This is a dimensional leap above the vegetable world in terms of perceptive power. Obviously there is a big difference in awareness say, between a hydra and a hyena, but this is irrelevant. Evolution has provided many animals with visual sensory organs (commonly known as eyes) which have aided them in no uncertain terms when it comes to survival. For example, flies can locate carnivorous plants more easily than they can if they have been blindfolded. However, the way most animals perceive this visual information is, more than likely, completely different to how humans perceive it.
Here’s a quick and fascinating experiment. If we take a round piece of paper and hold it up face on, we see a flat circle. If we now start to turn it, we see the paper moving in space revealing new angles, previously not visible. If we continue to turn it through 90°, we will see it edge on. We know this due to our concepts about things rather than due to our vision. Most animals seeing the same sheet of paper would draw completely different conclusions (if it were able to communicate!) For the animal, the change in shape of the paper is the paper itself changing shape! It could not imagine that it is simply a different angle of the same sheet of paper. To the animal, the circle starts to diminish in size, becoming progressively elliptical until it almost disappears completely. It’s height stays constant. Shadows too would appear as an obvious and integral part of the object! This idea is analogous with Plato’s cave story of the shadow watchers. A meaningful explanation can be arrived at no matter how limited one’s senses are. We have all seen a silhouette walking in the distance: it is impossible to tell if it is walking towards or away from us (obviously if viewed only for a few moments!) This is analogous to the flat, monocular vision of most animals. A confusing and mesmerizing pattern of light, shadow and motion that is more than likely reduced in intensity by natural neural limitations.
Only animals with acute stereoscopic vision can pinpoint an object, and as I will point out later on, seeing is not understanding!