Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture & Science in collaboration with Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture & Science and and Indo-German Noch-kontakt Association (iGNA), present:

9th International Conference

Science and Scientist 2021: Difference between Artificial and Natural Intelligence

December 30-31, 2021
8:30 am - 1:30 pm IST and 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm [GMT/UTC+5:30]
January 1, 2022 is post conference tour to holy places in Nabadwip, India

Venue: Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Narashimapalli, Krishnanagar, West Bengal, India
Online / Livestream

In modern times, scientists are posing questions such as, “Can computers become conscious?” and “Can robots think and feel like human beings?” Such questions are of foundational importance, and it is necessary to address them based on ontological considerations and related epistemology.

Indic traditions are rich in their philosophical foundations, and their ancient culmination in Vedanta has produced and preserved the deepest thoughts of our forefathers among whom lived great sages. They considered questions of intelligence and consciousness, causality, epistemology and their relevance in practical applications. The changes in scientific thinking in the 21st century has aligned the frontier developments more favorably towards Vedanta. Intelligence and consciousness have themselves become very important dimensions of study. Natural intelligence is an inherent function of cognition. All living organisms naturally display intelligence at cellular, behavioral and community level. However, no perfect ontological definition of intelligence exists within the realm of molecular chemistry and physics. On the other hand, computers and machines are being programmed intelligently to execute important tasks. Its applications are found in Robotics, Aerospace Engineering, Computers, Medical Aids, etc. Some robots have even been programmed to make songs and poems, and imitate intelligent human activities. It is very important to take up a comparative study to examine the difference between two forms of intelligence. This will help us to understand the deeper questions about life and its deeper meaning. The Vedantic traditions clearly guide the thoughtful human being to search in the direction of Spirit (Brahman) for finding true solutions to problems of life. However, oftentimes in the conventional approach of science, man’s focus is more or less in the domain of matter to solve the problem of consciousness and life, in which he fails to find any rational and concrete understanding. In this conference, the organizers take up the task of posing these questions to the participants and contributors of papers from various backgrounds. The location of this conference is Nabadwipa Dham, which is an ancient place of great Vedantic Scholars. Nabadwipa was also very famous as an important center of Nyaya Philosophy. This will provide a perfect platform for the thoughtful scholars to deliberate on these important topics.

Nature of Artificial Intelligence

Some of the proponents of AI assume that the nature of the human brain is like that of a machine, and therefore they assume that if a human can think then so can a machine. Some believe that if a computer can be programmed correctly to emulate certain human processes, then for all intents and purposes it is thinking as we do. One of the first tests to address this was the Turing test. Examples of programs which were put through the Turing test are ELIZA and SHRDLU. Attempts were made to emulate aspects of human conversation through these programs. In 1984, John Searle came up with another test which showed the defects in the Turing test and thereby devalued the Turing test as it could not state whether the machine understood anything by simply following some programmed algorithm. Computers have Syntax but no Semantics. Searle frequently refers to “causal properties” and “intentionality,” and has stated that while artificial systems lack both, the human brain somehow has both. This raises the question of mind and brain duality. Are they one or separate entities? Searle's argument implies that the human brain has a mind, but there is no mind within an artificial mechanical machine. How can we understand that the human brain has a mind and how does it arise? This raises questions about the biological substance that are not understood with a machine paradigm.

Nature of Natural Intelligence

Natural intelligence as found in living organisms is characterized by internal teleology. Living organisms utilize their intelligence for their own purposes. Furthermore, living organisms are endowed with notions like self-identity, as well as self/other identity distinction. According to the Bhagavad-Gita, knowledge means to know the difference between life and matter. Schelling explained that when consciousness attenuates to zero, it becomes known as matter. A machine is an arrangement of matter, by an intelligent person. Hence a machine possesses the quality of external teleology. But living organisms are naturally sentient and are characterized by internal teleology. Natural intelligence is an inherent function of cognitive faculty. Organisms naturally solve problems of finding food, self-defense, playful activities, sleep, etc. Such purposes are not found in machines. Therefore, Immanuel Kant coined the term Naturzweck for organisms and zweck for machines.

Molecular concepts are inadequate for addressing natural intelligence. Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock once said, “Every time I walk on grass, I feel sorry because I know the grass is screaming at me.” In other words, plants are sophisticated beings possessing all the sensitivities that are associated with life. The object of her study (plants) became subjects in their own right. She said, “A goal for the future would be to determine the extent of knowledge the cell (organism) has of itself and how it utilizes this knowledge in a thoughtful manner when challenged.” McClintock envisioned that the science of organisms will have to reorganize its whole way of looking at living organisms and doing research; a completely new realization of the relationship of things to each other is necessary. However she was quite clear that at present we lack the tools needed to explain the observations of the laboratory within mechanistic logic. We lack concepts of wholes, which are irreducible to their parts (molecular components like DNA). Organisms are naturally intelligent, meaning they are internally purposive and they exhibit cause/consequence circularity. The Cambridge declaration of consciousness has also held by consensus that all animals are conscious and display intelligent behavior.

Natural intelligence is the property of whole organisms. It cannot be explained in terms of popular concepts of artificial intelligence and linear mechanical logic. Distinguishing plant and animal intelligence by the term “natural intelligence” can be considered appropriate for denoting cellular and organismal intelligence. Arguments from Kant and Hegel show natural intelligence will require teleological explanations. Kant expressed his thoughts as, “There will never be a Newton for the blade of grass.” In other words, the law-governed lower activities of matter (physics and chemistry) are of insufficient explanatory relevance when explaining natural intelligence. Teleological explanations are the proper foundation for explanation of all biological phenomena. Higher level teleological explanations such as natural intelligence are substantial concepts of organisms. Hegel substantiated the arguments of Kant by giving three requirements for natural teleology: (1) Reciprocal relations between part and whole, i.e. all members are reciprocally momentary means as well as momentary ends. This is the principle of self-preservation, (2) assimilation from environment by which the system of life maintains, develops, and objectifies itself, and (3) reproduction, i.e. all organisms must also pursue self-preservation by reproduction by producing itself as another individual of the same species. In reproduction, the determination of the entire structure of the organism is manifest. Aristotle also explained that in the living organism, form and matter are united in potential as well as actual forms. He called this concept Hylomorphism.

In Vedanta, species have been categorized according to their degree of consciousness as well as their body/form. This is the object/subject unity of a proper understanding of nature. Sankya of Vedanta calls for a subtle/gross conception of matter. The species categorization in Vedanta is based on the consciousness with which a particular soul is attached. The different species are categorized as five koshas or stages of consciousness: (1) annamaya, (2) pranamaya, (3) manomaya, (4) vijnanamaya and, (5) anandamaya koshas. These five stages are hierarchical and are nested. The annamaya stage is the feeding stage and is common to all life forms in the world. This was also understood by Aristotle, when he explained that the nutritive stage is common to all life. The task of reason is to comprehend how the wholes are wholes. The being of the whole must be grasped as not being independent. Reason culminates in comprehending the Whole Truth, Reality, as in-and-for-itself, and not just for our consciousness. The scientific worldviews regarding consciousness are still in their developing stages and there are many genuine questions in the thoughts of scientists which need a systematic approach for a solution.

Western philosophers such as Descartes and Kant put forth many arguments about consciousness which are a matter of constant deliberation. However, Hegel has taken the dialectical thought to its peak within the Western horizon, which was once brought out and defended by great philosophers like Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle throughout history. However if we carefully examine, it is India where these thoughts have been explained in most careful and logical manner through the ages by great personalities like Srila Vyasadeva, Sripad Madhvacharya, Sripad Ramanujacharya, Sripad Vishnuswami and Sripad Nimbarka Acharya and their followers. Finally, within the past 500 years the contributions of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and thereafter Sripad Baladeva Bidyabhusana Prabhu has raised the philosophical concepts through their dialectical approach to the very zenith. Even the great philosophical systems of the West such as Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, and further the modern and postmodern philosophies, stand to benefit and are enriched with the contribution of Vedanta. Our primary objective in considering the highest conclusions within Eastern and Western wisdom is focused towards contributing to the progression of 21st century science. Modern science must take a more humble position to solve the difficult problems of Reality, which Vedanta and philosophy have always understood. The problems of philosophy cannot be solved by ignoring them. A culture of mutual harmony, understanding, reason, and thought exchange will benefit science, philosophy, and Vedanta.


Conference hashtag: #scienceandscientist2021 || #scienceandscientist2021

Science and Scientist 2021: Difference between Artificial and Natural Intelligence


    • Srila Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, Ph.D. (Conference Chair, Serving Director, Princeton Bhakti Vedanta Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, NJ, USA)
    • Bhakti Vijnana Muni, Ph.D. (President, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)
    • Bhakti Niskama Shanta, Ph.D. (Gen. Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute of Spiritual Culture and Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India)
    • Joan Walton, Ph.D. (Senior Lecturer, School of Education/Ph.D. Supervisor, York St John University, U.K.)
    • Abhay R. Bansal, Ph.D. (Sr. Principal Scientist & President IGNA_Hyderabad and CSIR-Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, Hyderabad, Telegana, India)
    • Medicharla Venkata Jagannadham, Ph.D. (Visiting Professor, & Vice-President IGNA_Hyderabad, School of Life Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Telegana, India)
    • Prasant K. Patro, Ph.D. (Sr. Principal Scientist, & Vice-President IGNA_Hyderabad, CSIR-Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research–National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, Telegana, India)

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“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

:: Max Planck
(Where is Science Going?: 1932)

“I am convinced that an important stage of human thought will have been reached when the physiological and the psychological, the objective and the subjective, are actually united, when the tormenting conflicts or contradictions between my consciousness and my body will have been factually resolved or discarded.”

:: Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
(Physiology of the Higher Nervous Activity (1932), 93-4.)