What is "emerging consciousness," in the context of evolution?

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A number of people state their belief that consciousness or self awareness has “emerged” through natural selection, and as a result of the will to survive. But nothing emerges from nothing. Wouldn’t there have to be the elements of consciousness in the energy and matter from which consciousness has emerged? What is your opinion on where these elements come from?
Secretsa has asked an interesting question, but one he knows is not answerable. Consciousness is not like anything else in inanimate nature, and in my mind is really not subject to being defined or broken down into elements.
In answer to Biggoura, maybe the Native Americans are right, that everything in nature is infused with life, and hence the potential for consciousness.

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All kinds of things emerge from simpler things.
The more fundamental elements that might have become emerging consciousness are perception, memory, the regular activities of the brains of most animals. You have an organ that does calculations, processes sensory information, feels pain and pleasure, hunger, etc, emotion, gets angry, desperate, calm, etc. That’s where consciousness comes from. An organ that tries to govern behavior by taking inputs and deciding the best course of action.


The problem is not about evolution.
The problems is that the term “consciousness” itself is as difficult to define as the word “life.”
We have an *intuitive* knowledge of when something is conscious, just as we have an intuitive knowledge of when something is alive.
But there is no rigorous definition of the dividing line between what is “conscious” and what is “not conscious” … just as there is no rigorous definition of the line between “life” and “non-life.”
Is a dolphin “conscious”? Is a dog “conscious”? Is an ant-hill or a swarm of bees “conscious”? Is a country “conscious”? Is a planet “conscious”?
Statements like “nothing emerges from nothing” are meaningless. It is a law of physics that *matter* never emerges from nothing … (but if you study quantum physics, you learn even that is no longer true). But with non-physical concepts like “consciousness”, there are there are many examples of non-physical concept X that emerged from “not-X.” E.g. complexity emerges from simplicity all the time (e.g. a snowflake). Beauty emerges from “nothing” all the time (a rainbow or a sunset). The English language emerged from ‘not-English’. Democracy emerged from ‘not-democracy.’
Or to put it another way … I’m sure you would agree that a single cell cannot be “conscious”. So a newly fertilized human zygote is not conscious. But a human adult presumably IS conscious. So at what point during embryology, or during childhood development does the consciousness emerge from what is clearly non-consciousness?
That refutes the “nothing comes from nothing” objection to the emergence of consciousness from non-consciousness.
So if there is no firm definition of what something IS … no way of drawing the line between “conscious” and “not conscious” … then how can we even BEGIN a discussion of how that thing started?
In other words, if you can tell me what “consciousness” is, in biological terms, then I can tell you how it evolved.
Can YOU give a defintion of “consciousness” in biological terms?


“But nothing emerges from nothing.”
While this seems intuitive, it is not a given, and the formation of virtual particles suggests that it is not true. Beyond that, you don’t start from “nothing”. Properties of matter change, especially when energy is added to a system. Atoms in isolation lacks properties found in a crystal. Complex systems can accrue by slow changes.


Let me ask you one (relatively) simple question.. What’s the simplest organism that has consciousness?
If you can answer this question, I guarantee I can answer yours.


I think consciousness evolved starting with the first living cell. Cells have many of the same levels of consciousness and intelligence as we do. Cells recognize and adapt to their environment, this requires awareness of themselves and their surroundings, cells communicate, memorize, process information. A conscious human could not evolve if the cells weren’t conscious in their designing. I have listed a great article on evolution and how consciousness designs evolution. But, I do not know what designed the origin of consciousness past a synapse. Anyone that claims to know usually has something to sell. Great question.


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