Awareness is fact, the problem is how to show how and when awareness occurs, and then how consciousness, as more sophisticated example of awareness occurs.
Awareness is representation making.
To the degree that a cell makes representations, we naturally say that a cell is aware. but why do we say that? because the cell changes its molecular interactions based on internal and external conditions. A cell will act to avoid and limit contact with toxins, and it will act to acquire nutrients. Cells will interact with other cells through exchange of chemicals and these exchanges produce differential behavior in the cells depending on the cells initial conditions "state".
This behavior is stigmergic. A signal which produces some action. The action that is taken is not determined by the signal, but is a function of the cell or organism. The cell or organism responds (or ignores) the signal in some way.
A representational example of stigmergy in action is the game Simon Says. The signal, an instruction to act, must be prefaced by a statement "Simon says" for the instruction to be correct. But the fun of the game is when a signal, not prefaced by "Simon says" induces an action by the participant. When to respond and when to ignore an instruction is the essence of the game. These behaviors elicit a follow up signal of getting it right, or of more challenging Simon Says instructions. The person receives a "reward" signal from the social interaction. But again, what we call a reward signal may not in fact be a reward, based on how the person processes that signal. A successful player may simply be bored, and a reward signal does not induce a "positive" response, but rather a response to do something else. Whereas a player receiving intermittent reward and failure social signals may try harder to receive the reward signal. The response to a signal is determined subjectively.
The cells themselves engage in just this kind of stigmergic behavior.
We like to say that the state of the cell, the organism, the person is what causes differences of behavior between cells and organisms upon receiving the same signal. But using the term "state" in this way is a shorthand representational and subjective substitute for a process that is happening that is stateless. It is the whole interaction of all the molecules of the cell that produces, that instantiates the behaviors of the cell. In fact, the cell has many interactions going on instantiating all kinds of concurrent behaviors. Most of these interactions we cannot describe because we do not see what the representational value of the interaction is to the cell. [Introduction to Systems Biology Uri Alon 2007]
The problem with state is actually a a problem with knowledge. If state is actually a thing itself, in place, then where is the state? Ordinarily we say that state is a instance of some conditions, but why tack on this concept of state to the actual instance? The objects and interactions themselves are both necessary and sufficient to describe interactions and the inclusion of a concept of state is superfluous. We use the concept of state as a way to describe a instance of interactions, structures, and objects but state is not a thing itself.
Secondly, the instance of a state is nowhere. The cell does not contain state information. Cells do not contain state data. Cells do not store state data. And if they did, how could they access that data? How do they represent state to store the state data? Once we begin to contemplate that a cell has state information then we must have mechanisms that access and interact with that data and we do not see anything like that kind of behavior in the cell. The cells are a homeostatic structure and collection of molecular interactions. None of the molecular interactions store state information for the cell. [Introduction to Systems Biology Uri Alon 2007]
If a cell does not store state information about itself, do cells store state information about other cells? No. A cell does not "know" about itself nor about other cells. The fact of existence is an example of a state. And cells simply do not store existential state information.
Cells do not engage in making representations. The cells engage only in a complex of representational functions that instantiate themselves as the representations.
Are cells aware? And we know that awareness always takes the form of the awareness of something. Awareness is never awareness by itself, it is always awareness of something. Thus if cells are aware, what are the cells aware of? And the answer is that there is nothing a cell is aware of. The cell, as it's whole self, responds and interacts to it's environment and maintains it's homeostasis, but these are functions of the cell. The cell does engage in representational functions, but it has no representations of things. Because the first fact of a representation of things is that the thing exists. And we know that cells do not store state information about themselves or about other cells. Cells simply engage in stigmergic action.
This nature of cells clues us into the nature of awareness. Because awareness must always be awareness of something, and to be aware of something implies having some kind of information that it is a thing, that it exists. shows that state information seems to go along with the awareness. And the reason this is so is because awareness must occur when representations are made. That is, awareness is representation making.
Cells do not engage in representation making, they engage only in representations functions, which produce themselves. The cell is the representation that is made from the physical processes that are homeostatic and self-maintaining. But a group of cells can reflect the existence of other individual and groups of cells. This is again done with stigmergy. A cell produces a molecule that is processed by another cell group which reflects the existence and possibly behavior and structure of the signaling cells. The cells do not know about other cells, but as a group they functionally respond to signals from each other as if there are other cells. And in this way the cells can become representations of other cells. When cells create networks of interaction, and when these networks form specialized inputs and outputs into that network, we have nervous systems.
Thus an organism is aware when it can make representations. The representations an organism makes are done using it's very cells to signal conditions and "state" of other cells and of the environment around it. Whether the signaling is accurate or inaccurate, generated by true conditions or false conditions is irrelevant the fact that the organism uses it's body to make representations. For organisms with nervous systems, the nervous systems structures are the embodiment of representations which are the objects of awareness. When a nervous system reacts and it's structures are excited, those excited structures change state. the excited structures instantiate the representations they embody and that is the moment of awareness, the event of experience.
The making of representations as embodiment is knowledge. The instantiation of those made representations is awareness and experience.
The whole system of making representations, embodiment, and instantiation of representations (awareness) is what instantiates (makes an instance of) consciousness. This whole system of making representations and instantiation is a Representational Simulation System.