Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Use this forum to discuss the philosophy of science. Philosophy of science deals with the assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.
anonymous66
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Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm

If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.

Tamminen
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by Tamminen » May 19th, 2018, 4:34 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
If they were not conscious, they would not be like us. If they were like us, they would be conscious by definition, because 'we' denotes conscious beings. And a 'world without us' makes no sense.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by ThomasHobbes » May 19th, 2018, 5:40 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Since the universe is non intentional, there are no real explanations to be had. Explanations are attempts to answer why questions. There are no such reasons.

Evolution like all scientifically discovered mechanisms is descriptive. There is nothing here to explain, as such. What evolutionary theory can do is to speculate using knowledge of the mechanism of natural selection to describe how consciousness emerged.

Consciousness in this respect is like anything else. There is no why atoms exist, no why water behaves as it does. The universe is just how it is. We can only describe what we find in it.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by ThomasHobbes » May 19th, 2018, 5:43 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Consciousness is material.

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 19th, 2018, 5:43 pm

@Tamminem
Do you believe consciousness is necessary in any possible world (with life)?

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 19th, 2018, 5:46 pm

@Thomas Hobbes
It seems to me that if everyone had that attitude then science wouldn't have made much progress.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by ThomasHobbes » May 19th, 2018, 6:00 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:46 pm
@Thomas Hobbes
It seems to me that if everyone had that attitude then science wouldn't have made much progress.
I have described ALL scientific progress.

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Halc
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by Halc » May 19th, 2018, 9:44 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:46 pm
It seems to me that if everyone had that attitude then science wouldn't have made much progress.
Actually, science made very little progress until it assumed that attitude. The alternate attitude resulted in the dark ages.

It's called methodological naturalism, and it proceeds as if (among other things) that consciousness is material and origin of human life is natural. The success and progress due to the switch to this methodology speaks for itself.

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LuckyR
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by LuckyR » May 20th, 2018, 3:02 am

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Well because consciousness confers the single greatest survival advantage ever for genetic material.
"As usual... it depends."

Tamminen
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by Tamminen » May 20th, 2018, 3:25 am

anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:43 pm
@Tamminem
Do you believe consciousness is necessary in any possible world (with life)?
I do not know what possible worlds are, but I think consciousness is the precondition of there being a world at all, if by 'world' we mean everything there is, the totality of being. And a valid counterargument is not, as is often suggested, that the universe was not inhabited in the beginning.

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 21st, 2018, 7:06 am

LuckyR wrote:
May 20th, 2018, 3:02 am
anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Well because consciousness confers the single greatest survival advantage ever for genetic material.
What makes you think so? And if that is the case, why don't more animals have consciousness?

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 21st, 2018, 7:10 am

ThomasHobbes wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:40 pm
anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Since the universe is non intentional, there are no real explanations to be had. Explanations are attempts to answer why questions. There are no such reasons.

Evolution like all scientifically discovered mechanisms is descriptive. There is nothing here to explain, as such. What evolutionary theory can do is to speculate using knowledge of the mechanism of natural selection to describe how consciousness emerged.

Consciousness in this respect is like anything else. There is no why atoms exist, no why water behaves as it does. The universe is just how it is. We can only describe what we find in it.
It sounds like you're saying, "scientists don't ask questions". But it seems to me that science advances when people do ask questions.

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 21st, 2018, 7:11 am

Tamminen wrote:
May 20th, 2018, 3:25 am
anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:43 pm
@Tamminem
Do you believe consciousness is necessary in any possible world (with life)?
I do not know what possible worlds are, but I think consciousness is the precondition of there being a world at all, if by 'world' we mean everything there is, the totality of being. And a valid counterargument is not, as is often suggested, that the universe was not inhabited in the beginning.
Why couldn't there be a universe with no conscious beings? I'm able to imagine a universe consisting of only one atom.

anonymous66
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by anonymous66 » May 21st, 2018, 7:16 am

ThomasHobbes wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 5:43 pm
anonymous66 wrote:
May 19th, 2018, 2:46 pm
If only natural processes and the material, then why is there consciousness? It seems perfectly plausible for beings like us to exist, but without the "extra baggage" of consciousness.
Consciousness is material.
What makes you think so?

Do you have a favorite materialistic/physicalist theory to describe consciousness? Functionalism? Identity theory? Behaviorism? Eliminative materialism?

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Halc
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Re: Can Evolution Explain Consciousness?

Post by Halc » May 21st, 2018, 7:48 am

anonymous66 wrote:
May 21st, 2018, 7:11 am
Tamminen wrote:
May 20th, 2018, 3:25 am

I do not know what possible worlds are, but I think consciousness is the precondition of there being a world at all, if by 'world' we mean everything there is, the totality of being. And a valid counterargument is not, as is often suggested, that the universe was not inhabited in the beginning.
Why couldn't there be a universe with no conscious beings? I'm able to imagine a universe consisting of only one atom.
Tamminen is working from idealistic definitions, so consciousness defines 'everything there is'. A universe unperceived is nonexistent by definition.

Science would indeed make little progress if it adopted methodological idealism, but the success of science by a different methodology is not hard proof of the validity of the assumptions of that methodology. Science does not disprove idealism, nor the dualism that drives you to 'why' questions instead of the 'how' questions.

LuckyR gave the answer you seek. A being that is conscious of its environment will have a massive survival advantage over a similar being that is not conscious of its environment. Evolution would quickly select for the former it would seem. Not so under idealism, where a world of non-conscious pre-evolutionary life (say only plants??) cannot even exist to eventually evolve into conscious life forms.

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