Mind in the Biosphere The Concept of the Noosphere

The Noosphere was described by Vernadsky as the "sphere of human thought" which evolves out of the Biosphere. More specifically, Vernadsky claimed "Scientific Thought" was the ultimate evolutionary goal of the Noosphere and of humankind. Other writers have taken the Noosphere concept and expanded it to mean a "global consciousness," something perhaps akin to Jung's idea of a Collective Unconscious. Setting aside the more difficult concept of consciousness, we need to ask "what is thought?" Vernadsky believed thought is not a form of energy. And since he dealt only with empirical generalizations concerning energy transformations known to science, he was in a dilemma to explain how thought could take part in the innumerable transformations taking place in the Biosphere. See Vernadsky's article on The Transition from the Biosphere to the Noosphere.

Thought is something that everyone is familiar with, like the story of the fish who had just heard about water and wondered what it was. They went to a wise fish and asked him. They were told that it's all around them, and yet the fish were still thirsty. This is our situation with respect to thought. We experience it, use it continuously, yet we don't really know what it is or where it comes from. This was Vernadsky's problem and it is our problem as well.

Vernadsky could not make the connection between thought as a non-energetic "something" and the transformations involving human activity, such as thought leading to creation of new compounds or thought causing the significant effects in all the other spheres of the planet. However, what Vernadsky did in creating the idea of the Noosphere was to bring into scientific discussion the idea of Mind, the idea of mental operations within the Biosphere. From a scientific perspective, this was an enormous jump.

It must be pointed out that thought is more than thought. Thought as a mental operation would have to include emotions. Hence, for the sake of completeness, we can assume that mental operations in the Noosphere would include both thought and emotional activity.

Proceeding from where Vernadsky left off, we can define the Noosphere as an envelope within the Biosphere that is comprised of the sum total of all human mental operations. Using a characteristic Vernadskian naming convention, we could say that these mental operations are composed of "Mental Matter" either within or alongside the Living Matter of the Biosphere. Unlike the transformations of Living Mattter within the Biosphere, the only way we have of detecting the operation of Mental Matter is by its effects on human behavior. Mind, then, is a mechanism for transforming Mental Matter into behavior which then carries out the transformations of energy that we can measure with conventional methods. The idea that human behavior is our measuring tool of the state of the Noosphere is crucial to our understanding.

To get a picture of what is happening, consider all the thoughts and feelings in humanity going on at this very moment. Billions of people thinking and feeling. This is the Noosphere. The spinning globe at the top of this page serves as a simple graphical representation of this process in action. We can envision, on a mass human scale, thoughts/feelings with the colored rays representing differing types, quantities, qualities, and intensities of our thoughts/feelings. To use a current metaphor, we can begin to see our "Mental Footprint." However, I don't think we are going to be taxed on it - yet.

As much as we think we know about our minds and our behavior, we can see that the Noosphere is a very great mystery. What are thoughts? Where do they come from? What are they for?


The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States.
(National Research Report and Forum. National Wildlife Federation. 2012)

"...The immense significance of the penetration of consciousness into the sensitivity of living organisms is not only that this makes possible the arising of selves, but that it is an awakening of the Mind of the Biosphere. Through the human mind, we see that the Biosphere begins to acquire the faculty of reflection, so that the Earth becomes related to itself in a new way that goes beyond life alone."

J.G. Bennett, from Vol. 4, The Dramatic Universe