Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Jun 2016 06:51 UTC
Geek stuff, sci-fi...

Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that's why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?

The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right - and that has yet to be determined - then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species.

I know this really isn't what you'd generally expect to be posted here, but the concept of consciousness - one of a small set of words in the English language I cannot spell from the top of my head without making errors - is one of those things that, when you think too deeply about it, you enter into a realm of thinking that can get deeply uncomfortable and distressing, like thinking about what's outside the universe or what "existed" "before" (quotes intentional) the big bang.

Personally, I'm one of those insufferable people who ascribes the entire concept of consciousness to the specific arrangement of neurons and related tissue in our brain and wider nervous system - I don't accept religion or some other specific magical thing that makes us humans (and dolphins? And chimpansees? And whatever else has some level of consciousness?) more special than any other animal in terms of consciousness.

I also don't like the controversial concept of splitting consciousness up into an easy and a hard problem, because to me, that just opens the door to maintaining the religious idea that humans are somehow more special than other animals - sure, science has made it clear some other animals have easy consciousness, but humans are still special because we are the only ones with hard consciousness. It reeks of an artificial cutoff point created to maintain some semblance of uniqueness for homo sapiens sapiens so we can feel good about ourselves.

You can take the whole concept of consciousness in every which way, and one of my recent favourites is CGP Grey's video The Trouble With Transporters, which, among other tings, poses the question - if you interrupt your consciousness by being teleported or going to sleep, are you really the same person when you rematerialise or wake up?

Have fun!

Permalink for comment 630186
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[2]: Bah Humbug!
by cacheline on Fri 10th Jun 2016 17:35 UTC in reply to "RE: Bah Humbug!"
Member since:

The same goes for origins of life from naturalistic processes. We have never observed abiogenesis in a lab. Further, even if we did, that would at most proved it could happen, not that it did happen.

While modern evolutionists may not be concerned with origins of life, without life, there could be no evolution. So, building evolution w/o understanding our origins is like building a skyscraper w/o a foundation.

So, determining origins requires a degree of faith. Not necessarily a "blind faith", but an educated faith based on available evidences. We create one or more models, just like for any scientific theory, and the model that best fits the data should be accepted, unless and until evidence points more towards another model.

The model that best fits the evidence is a creator, God, who did not use macro-evolution, but created everything in six 24-hour periods. The degree of precision required for life on Earth is so stringent, a reasonable person would not conclude it occurred by mere chance or accident. Nor, would any reasonable person then state that there's no God, but that aliens planted life here. (1) Because we have no evidence of aliens doing so. (2) Because that only shows the origins of life on Earth, not in the universe (or multiverse, however you want to look at it).

Creationists do no lack evidence. They just have their evidence constantly ridiculed and ignored. And quite often, in my own discussions, I find it is by those who are unaware of the specifics of the evidence, and have no desire to educate themselves. For instance,, gives many evidences, both for the existence of God and for reasons to doubt evolution and the big bang. And lest someone think it's just some Bible-thumping preachers writing a personal blog and making up stuff: the articles have bibliographies pointing to the scientific literature backing their statements, so you can look it up yourself instead of summarily dismissing it.

Reply Parent Score: 1