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How does evolution explain the origin of consciousness?

The process of natural selection selects organisms for survival based only on their behaviour, on what they do. An organism that behaves as we behave but which does not have the attendant mental states that we have will have just as much survival value as we do. Mentality is not necessary for behaviour, and nothing more than behaviour is necessary for survival, so is there no survival value to having mental states?

6 COMMENTS

  1. If you want to treat all of behavior as instinctive responses, then you severely limit the opportunities for animals. Many other species besides humans have self-awareness, imagination, and mental images of external reality. The abilities to reason, imagine, and be aware of oneself are necessary for flexibility and adaptability in a world of possibilities that are not coded into our instincts.
    An animal with no consciousness is a mindless robot. When it if presented with an obstacle it has never seen before, it fails and dies. The cousin with consciousness may be able to create a solution to a problem that is not part of instinctive programming.

  2. Uh, no, natural selection does NOT select organisms based ONLY on their behavior. That premise is simply false.
    An organism that didn’t have the level of consciousness we have would NOT behave as we behave.
    Our consciousness DOES effect our behavior. It helps us behave more intelligently, and communicate with each other more effectively (which has been a big reason for our success).
    If you want to understand how evolution explains the origina of consciousness, read Dan Dennett’s Consciousness Explained — there’s a section of that book that proposes just such an explanation.

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