October 30, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionists Deceive Themselves about Consciousness

Nature cannot select consciousness
unless you make it an idol


[Note: CEH entries this week will be brief, consisting mostly of links to articles of interest.]

Consciousness: what it is, where it comes from — and whether machines can have it (Nature Book Review, 30 Oct 2023). Liad Mudrik reviews three books—all by evolutionists—who try to explain consciousness arising by natural selection. For example, Daniel Dennett’s new book I’ve Been Thinking turns consciousness into a survival skill that the great Selector bequeathed to human beings:

Towards the end of the book, Dennett summarizes his view of how consciousness, free will and meaning emerged from billions of years of natural selection and cultural shaping, as single-celled organisms became eukaryotic, multicellular ones. In the last tiny fraction of the process came Homo sapiens, and the development of language. This took millions of years of R&D by, as Dennett puts it, “agents who did not yet understand what they were doing and why”. But the possibilities that language provided — to notice meaning, to analyse, to think about what we are thinking and to communicate and act on our thoughts — presented a problem. How could humans control these unprecedented degrees of freedom?

The answer, according to Dennett, was consciousness. Consciousness, for him, is a control architecture that takes competing streams of ideas and determines from them our expectations and actions. This control system is, fundamentally, who ‘we’ are. Consciousness is not about the way it feels to touch a hot surface, for instance, but about generating a control signal that tells us to move our hand away from that surface, an action which has survival value. Free will, in turn, is the ability to differentiate between competing streams of thoughts and actions. Being human is essentially about being a reasoner: to reason about reasons and to exert control over one’s own behaviour. Our sense of self — being a being that ‘experiences’ things, observing them somehow from the outside — is a mere user illusion.

The other books reviewed by Mudrik say similar things in different ways. Everything about our humanness, to them, is a result of natural selection.

Dennett may have been thinking, but he was not thinking about thinking if his thinking led him to believe his thinking was a result of natural selection, a material process with no foresight.

Note several things: (1) The views in all three books are self-refuting (see 27 Oct 2023). Even the “indeterminism” espoused by Kevin Mitchell and Joseph LeDoux does not grant free will to the mind. (2) All the book authors turn natural selection into an idol with supernatural powers. Her miracles only become evident through the obligatory veil of “billions of years.” (3) Nature never gives any space to a Darwin skeptic, of which there are many with degrees in neuroscience and philosophy who could make mincemeat of the Darwinian positions in a debate. Why is that?

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Categories: Mind and Brain

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