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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Atheist Admits There Is No Evolutionary Explanation for Consciousness

Russel Wallace, a biologist of Darwin's era, argued that the human consciousness should be exempted from the iron rule of evolution, in which Darwin responded in a letter written to Wallace, "I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child". Darwin believed that human consciousness was very much a part of the evolution of the brain, thus dissolving any illusion of man's authorship, creativity, or understanding, and yet no convincing evidence has ever been offered to support this notion. Thoughtful atheists admit that the materialist Darwinian process of natural selection cannot account for the human consciousness. Atheist philosopher and physician Raymond Tallis, who said: "You won’t find consciousness in the brain", wrote the following in The Philosophers Magazine in 2009:

"Consciousness makes evolutionary sense only if one does not start far enough back; if, that is to say, one fails to assume a consistent and sincere materialist position, beginning with a world without consciousness, and then considers whether there could be putative biological drivers for organisms to become conscious. This is the only valid starting point for those who look to evolution to explain consciousness, given that the history of matter has overwhelmingly been without conscious life, indeed without history. Once the viewpoint of consistent materialism is assumed, it ceases to be self-evident that it is a good thing to experience what is there, that it will make an organism better able so to position itself in the causal net as to increase the probability of replication of its genomic material. On the contrary, even setting aside the confusional states it is prone to, and the sleep it requires, consciousness seems like the worst possible evolutionary move.

If there isn't an evolutionary explanation of consciousness, then the world is more interesting than biologists would allow. And it gets even more interesting if we unbundle different modes of consciousness. There are clearly separate problems in trying to explain on the one hand the transition to sentience and on the other the transition from sentience to the propositional awareness of human beings that underpins the public sphere in which they live and have their being, where they consciously utilise the laws of nature, transform their environment into an artefacts cape, appeal to norms in a collective that is sustained by deliberate intentions rather than being a lattice of dovetailing automaticities, and write books such as The Origin of Species. Those who are currently advocating evolutionary or neuro-evolutionary explanations of the most complex manifestations of consciousness in human life, preaching neuro-evolutionary aesthetics, law, ethics, economics, history, theology etc, should consider whether the failure to explain any form of consciousness, nevermind human consciousness, in evolutionary terms, might not pull the rug from under their fashionable feet."

Read the rest here.

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