Evolution of Consciousness Inevitable?

The accumulation of small heritable changes within populations over time.

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Evolution of Consciousness Inevitable?

#1  Postby NateHevens » Mar 02, 2010 2:33 pm

(Before I go on I just want to point out, as I usually do, that I'm no scientist. This is, at best, a drunk rambling written by a sober guy. So keep that in mind. Also... if this is in the wrong section, please feel free to move it.)

As with a lot of my posts, I'm posting this to be ripped apart, with the express purpose of learning.

Those of you who've read my introduction thread know I belong to the forums of a site called Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM.org).

There is a member of the forum, a Creationist, who has done something amazing. Of every Creationist I have ever met, online and offline, only 2 have managed to gain my respect: a history teacher I had in college, and this member of CARM. The reason for both is simple... they both made an effort to learn about actual evolution instead of just sticking to the strawmen. And with the forum member, it's possible she may eventually come to accept evolution (the teacher was of the Kurt Wise variety... had no qualms admitting that the Bible trumps evidence for him... I respected the honesty about it, mostly... although he was also "agnostic", as it were, about the age of the earth, so he wasn't a Young-Earth Creationist in the strictest sense... oh and no, he did not teach history from a religious perspective... he seemed respectful of the fact that the vast majority of the class were either agnostics or atheists).

Anyways, we're discussing so-called "ape to human evolution". I said that this isn't entirely accurate because we are essentially apes... uber-intelligent apes.

Then I went on the following pontification, which I'll go ahead and just copy over to here:

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I think you could see our intelligence; our ability to "know ourselves"; as "evolution gone wild".

In fact, I would go so far as to say that since it's most definitely happened once, it's quite reasonable to assume that, given enough time, intelligence will inevitably evolve.

Look at the dolphin. The dolphin is one of the most intelligent creatures on this planet. I'd say it's reasonable to assume that at some point in the future (definitely not within our life-times... probably within a few million years or so... maybe sooner, maybe longer) the descendants of the dolphin will at least rival those future humans in intelligence, if not surpass them in it.

We can even show this assumption to be reasonable (that intelligence will inevitably evolve given enough time) because the vast majority of living species are likely more intelligent then their ancestors. The growing of the brain-casing (and the brain) is evident not just in hominids, but in many, if not most, species. And a larger brain does seem to indicate intelligence-level on a species scale.

Humans are the most intelligent species in existence so far, but there's no reason to assume we will remain that way for as long as our species exists.
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(I should point out that, seeing as this is a Creationist, we try to keep it simple... so there's a lot of info missing on purpose... I just hope I'm not misleading, and I'd like to find out now so I can correct any mistakes or withdraw it completely.)

With intelligence I also meant self-awareness, consciousness, etc. I posted on the thread that I most likely got a lot wrong (if not all of it), so...

What I'm asking, essentially, is... is it probable to assume that intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness, etc will inevitably evolve given enough time and species to work with? Or did I basically pull that out of my ass?
Fuck off. I'm not interested.

Unless you're a hot chick or you have copious amounts of weed you want to share for free...

Then we can be friends...

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#2  Postby Spearthrower » Mar 02, 2010 5:07 pm

If we see consciousness as a gradient rather than an on/off switch, then I would say that consciousness is inevitable.
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Re: Evolution of Consciousness Inevitable?

#3  Postby my_wan » Mar 02, 2010 9:55 pm

You ask if evolution of consciousness is inevitable? I some sense yes, but that depends a lot on what you mean by consciousness. Consciousness, as in qualia, and intelligence are not exactly the same thing, though there is mutual dependence. Consider what intelligence replaces, i.e., instinct. Instinct is highly limited in that a range of possible responses is limited to a set given at birth.

I provided a mechanistic model here:
http://www.rationalskepticism.org/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=130&start=10#p3486
And here I described a little more about how it related to consciousness and qualia:
http://www.rationalskepticism.org/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=130&start=20#p8446

Essentially our conscious mind is highly limited, thus our brain filters noise and provides us with a condensed version of expected reality. Yet this qualia is an illusion provided to limit the information our conscious minds must contend with. Even our purely intellectual models are a perspectival construct which becomes part of the qualia we assume defines reality. Yet such models are based on cogency, not reality. Two such models can appear mutually exclusive, yet have the exact same cogency which the reality it represents. The way it becomes a part of our perceived qualia of reality is why true believers become so entrenched in such beliefs. The one true reality mythology. This qualia map we perceive as reality is easily manipulated by optical and perceptual illusions, as well as the contextualization of intellectual qualia to make it appear as something other than what it is. Consider why it is that the reasons for a persons actions are more important to us than the physical act itself?

So yes, consciousness is a prerequisite of intelligence, yet is not dependent itself on intelligence as such. It's a limited construct to allow instincts to be replaced by a more adaptable range of responses. It's also a highly limited model representation that spectacularly fails to match reality under many circumstances. Yet the emergence of intelligence is dependent having such simplified model to work with, else reality would simply be too complex for intelligence to emerge in a stepwise manner.
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#4  Postby NateHevens » Mar 02, 2010 10:39 pm

I probably should have asked it as "Evolution of Intelligence Inevitable". When I said "consciousness", I meant intelligence, but was trying to include all the traits we humans thought (and, in some cases, still think) were (are) unique to us: besides intelligence, also self-awareness, consciousness, etc.

That said, thank you for your post, my_wan. It was extremely informative and very helpful.
Fuck off. I'm not interested.

Unless you're a hot chick or you have copious amounts of weed you want to share for free...

Then we can be friends...

:mrgreen:
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