Saturday, April 05, 2008

Darwin and consciousness

Any theory of consciousness, if it is to be a successful one, needs to be embedded in the known facts about the world.

As far as we can tell, consciousness is prima facie a biological phenomenon. Therefore, any model of consciousness needs to have robust biological foundations. It becomes thus necessary, in order to understand the wherefroms and whys of consciousness, to really tackle the biological phenomenon.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (Theodosius Dobzhansky 1973). Charles Darwin's "On the origin of species" (1859) was a Magnum Opus aimed at explaining the origin of the multitudes of life forms to be found on the earth. It was the genius of Charles Darwin that he successfully accounted for the origin of the incredible variety of the life forms on earth from a universal, unifying principle of evolution through variations and natural selection.

In order for the universal principle to give rise to the multitude of life forms, a certain amount of the passage of time is necessary. The variety of life forms on earth has been nurtured by the long history of biology on this planet. Just like the tropical rainforest, consciousness is a rich culture developed over long years of human evolution. Within its phenomenology, many distinctive elements can be discerned. From this particular viewpoint, any naive form of protopsychism can be rejected, considering the long history of evolution that led to human consciousness.

Artificially building a system that possesses consciousness is a daunting problem, as it amounts to retracing the whole history of the evolution of the biological systems which finally lead to the human brain as we know it today (not necessarily implicating that it is at the "pinnacle" of biological evolution.)


Blogger Sofia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Sofia said...

I don't think that Darwin's Theory is complete. It is missing something huge - the idea of consciousness. This is not just some hokey-pokey philosophical rant. I was a Biology Major in college, and was always troubled by the fact that there were so many unexplainable mysteries that cannot be explained by it. Dangerous symbiotic relationships. Modern beauty ideals ==> Modern beauty in the physical body. Others.
It angered me that Biological theories would be thought up by about three of four scientists, and then, because one was rich or charismatic, or perhaps right, he would win the popular vote and then all consequent biological theories would be based upon that one. That's not very scientific! But it happened over and over in history. Darwin had three or four other rival theorists at the time, and he won. I think that there are always important things lost when we cling to one or another ideal.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Bargi said...

Consciousness and cognition present a significant challenge to Darwinism. Not in principle but the rate of their progress.

Julian Jaynes speculated that its a matter of few thousands years.

But if cognition is not Darwinian, then Dobzhansky has to be suspect.


1:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home