Approaching this question from the panpsychist branch of philosophy, Mr. Sheldrake suggests that – well, maybe we can’t rule out the possibility that the Sun might be self-aware. Is_the_Sun_Conscious.pdf (jennyrook.com)
Part of the argument is the analogy between electro-magnetic activity in the human brain and electro-magnetic activity in the Sun.
“Most researchers agree that consciousness is somehow related to the electrical activity of brains. Some go further and propose that brains’ electromagnetic fields actually are conscious. In his ‘conscious electromagnetic information field’ (Cemi) hypothesis, JohnJoeMcFadden points out that brains both generate electromagnetic fields and are influenced by them. The electromagnetic field affects field-sensitive voltage-gated ion channels in neuronal membranes”
Some have taken the idea of a conscious sun further – and present a different explanation for binary stars.
“The philosopher Clément Vidal has proposed a very different view of volitional stars in his stellivore hypothesis. Vidal suggests that some stars may be predators that seek out victims, from which they suck out matter to fuel themselves. They do so in binary star systems in which one of the stars in the pair, the stellivore, accretes matter from the other (Vidal, 2016).”
Mr. Sheldrake’s speculation brings us back to the question of the link (if any) between consciousness and communication. To echo the theme of Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris”, is communication even possible between entities which are completely different? We humans are highly dependent on the activities of our gut bacteria, which have masses about 14 orders of magnitude less than us – and yet we never sit down for a chat with a gut bacterium. The Sun has a mass about 28 orders of magnitude greater than us, and we are totally irrelevant to the Sun. Why would the Sun ever care about communicating with us? If the Sun is indeed conscious, how would we ever know?
S/he/it may be concerned about those pesky monkeys engaging in star lifting, in order to extend the lifetime of their star (being monkeys, they assume possession of it), to harvest material from it, or to build a Shkadov thruster to go stravaging around the galaxy.
To ambitious monkeys, this is their future. If you’re the star they regard with envious eyes, it may be seen as a threat.
I just can’t take this in. If the sun is conscious, then surely it is our God? It is the sine qua non of life on earth! So all those ancient people who worshipped it were right? Sol Invictus! Ra!
And,um, what about this: maybe it’s still under the impression that we’re worshipping it, I mean, how long would it take for word to get from earth to the sun that it has been dethroned as supreme deity? I mean we’re seeing light from stars that may have burned out ages ago, right? When the sun gets the message of our apostasy, what will it DO to Earth?
Can it will anything? Can it, f’rinstance, come just a bit closer to our planet and fry all life? Then it will be sorry, when it finds out that we are returning to the proper reverence now, a quarter through the 21st century—just like Jehovah was sorry, first about ever having made Man, and then, post-deluge, for drowning everybody except Noah.
Not necessarily. The Humongous Fungus in Oregon appears to be the largest single living organism on Earth, but so far, people are not bowing down to it and swearing fealty to it as their God (well, maybe in Portland, but are they really people?).
The Sun may be conscious, but that doesn’t mean, just because of its size, it’s superior in intellect to the monkeys on the third planet. The core of the Sun generates energy by fusion power at about the same rate as a compost heap of cow manure. Perhaps its cognition is commensurate.
2300 A.D.—we finally establish communication with the Sun. We ask, “What’s happening?” It responds, “Nothing much. How did the Barbie movie do compared to Oppenheimer?”
2350 A.D.—Muskburg colony ships depart from Mars bound for Proxima Centauri—“There’s got to be a smarter star system we can inhabit.”
That assumes the Sun even knows we exist. Yes, we have popped a few satellites at the Sun – but that is trivial compared to the space debris that falls into the Sun. Remember that a gut bacterium could make our lives rather unpleasant for a few days – but there is absolutely nothing we can do to influence the Sun.
What I wonder about, if we explore the hypothesis that perhaps the Sun is conscious is – What does the Sun think about? Would its intelligence be on the level of a super-brain, or of an oversized bacterium? Considering that the Sun is isolated by light-years of information travel from its fellow stars, does it feel like it is in solitary confinement or is it totally happy being undisturbed by mindless chatter from its neighbors?
Two things come to mind, before I take advantage of the Sun having turned its face away from this part of the Northern Hemisphere, and trundle off to sleep:
In one of Terry Pratchett’s books, I think it’s “ Hogfather”, one character says that if the solstice rituals are not properly performed, the sun will not rise.
What WILL happen? another character nervously asks.
A giant ball of flaming gas will illuminate the earth, says the first.
We can all see that is NOT the same thing.
The other thing that occurred to me is that in the Old Testament, God, Yahweh, is definitely not a sun deity: He manifests in storms, whirlwind, cloud…like Perun. the thundergod derived from the Vedic beliefs. “He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm” as the hymnist has it….more of a water deity, really. But then after the flood, He promises Man the fire next time….
In a science fiction series called My Backyard Spaceship one of the characters is thee “being” Metarforge, that lives on a nearby star. IT has a very different frame of reference, seeing things past, present, and future all at once but more as a kind of moulage, not specific events or people. So kind of a “trend line”. Since we have no idea about this topic, perhaps speculating on something very different might be “interesting”.
This is the model of spacetime that underlies Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Philosophers call it “eternalism”, and physicists the “block universe”. In general relativity, there is no dynamics: as a classical theory, the past is perfectly predictable from the present and the future perfectly predictable from the past.
In this model, our perception of time is merely a cursor which moves through spacetime, with our perception of “now” just its current position. There is no free will, but since you can’t look ahead of the cursor, you have the illusion of the flow of time and your ability to determine your future. Suck it up, buttercup—it’s all deterministic.
If you imagine a God outside this universe, He is able to see the past and future in the spacetime block in its entirety—this is what theologians call “omniscience” and “omnipresence”. This is similar to the way the aliens from Tralfamadore in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five perceived time.
Some people find this view depressing, while others are comforted by it. My friend and occasional co-authorRudy Rucker spoke to Kurt Gödel shortly before the latter’s death in 1978. Gödel said he believed in the block universe model and that his life was indelibly and forever inscribed within it, like all others who have lived.
?What exactly would be “manyana syndrome” to an eternally-living being. WE think of manyana because we do have a manyana. But if your timeline is eternity, tomorrow is of little consequence. As to whether or not it “does” anything, ?how do we know. If life really is “eternal”, then a day is of little consequence, and what it does may not even be appreciated for centuries, or even millennia.
I think it’s important to distinguish between an eternally-living (immortal) being and one who exists outside of spacetime and views the past and future in its totality all at once. The immortal being within spacetime has a well-defined past and future, and is simply confident that its future is unbounded in future time. But there’s still the knowledge that the past (ayer) is fixed and unchangeable and the future (mañana) has yet to be determined. This also makes immortals prone to procrastination, since there is an infinity of tomorrows unto which things can be postponed.
The outside-of-time observer knows that free will is an illusion of those trapped within the block of spacetime, and thus is never surprised as long as they take the God’s eye view of it all. But based upon scripture across many cultures, these Gods may choose to inject themselves into spacetime and follow a world-line in which they experience events as a cursor moving through the spacetime block just as those confined to it do.
Any view assuming an eternal future must confront the Poincaré recurrence theorem, which demonstrates that any dynamical system with a finite number of states will eventually return to its initial state and exactly recapitulate all of the states into which it previously evolved. This number is, for realistic systems, huge, but infinity is always bigger still. This means that as long as the universe is effectively finite (which astronomy indicates ours is, as there is a cosmic horizon beyond which we cannot send or receive information), eventually the history of the universe must repeat and an immortal being will be condemned to watching (and experiencing) re-runs for all eternity.
That statement implies that if it were possible, we would have done it. But we just don’t know what we can or can’t do. ?Are there “other ways” of communicating or seeing or receiving data we have yet to discover. That we have not yet, does not mean it doesn’t exist - just that we haven’t found it yet.