Consciousness: Dennett says it is an illusion (General)

by David Turell @, Saturday, October 05, 2019, 18:17 (358 days ago) @ dhw

EGNOR: "...if consciousness is non-physical, how could it evolve? Darwinian natural selection can only act on a physical attribute."

dhw: […] In a nutshell: neither evolution nor natural selection can explain the origin of physical life or – if it exists – of immaterial “life”, including consciousness, but both the material and the immaterial can be changed by evolution, and the survival of the changes will be determined by natural selection.

DAVID: I think you are wrong. I don't see evolution or natural selection acting on consciousness which is immaterial. Of course we do not know why or how it originated.

dhw: You don’t see that there has been a progression in the level of consciousness from bacteria or, since you deny them consciousness, let’s say ants and monarch butterflies and weaverbirds to whales and dogs and apes, and finally to humans. You have already acknowledged earlier that human intelligence/consciousness is a major factor in the successful survival of our species – and natural selection, as we have agreed, explains why some attributes and organisms survive while others don’t. You can’t see that such immaterial things as language, social customs, religions, philosophy evolve as each generation builds on the work of its predecessors – and as evolution proceeds, some become extinct by a process of natural selection. How many people still believe in the gods who were supposed to live on Mount Olympus? In the context of our discussion on Egnor’s point above, he has wrongly equated evolving with originating, and whether you are a dualist or a materialist, the fact remains that we do not know the origin of physical life or of non-physical consciousness, but both have evolved from comparatively simple beginnings to their current levels, and natural selection has determined what has survived.[/color]

DAVID: You still don not understand that our definitions differ. Yes, humans are conscious like all other animals with a brain. But we also have the special attribute of consciousness, which is totally unexplained and creates self-awareness and conceptual thought as you describe above. The two differ and the separation must be recognized, especially as Adler uses it as proof God exists, as I do.

dhw: You seem to be arguing for the sake of arguing. Humans are conscious like all other animals with a brain, and consciousness at all levels is totally unexplained. There is no difference between being conscious and having consciousness. Humans have an advance degree of consciousness which makes them self-aware. There is absolutely no disagreement here, and I don't have a problem if you and Adler use human self-awareness or indeed ANY level of consciousness or of design as evidence for your God's existence. So why don’t you just stick to the subject, which is Egnor’s claim, reproduced at the beginning of this post, and concerning which I have spent so much time and space arguing that he has mistakenly equated evolving with originating, as bolded above? If you agree with the bold, then let's move on.

Note the colored phrases. The lower one shows our full disagreement: humans and other animals are conscious, but only humans have a special form called consciousness, which makes us very different. The upper one is a truism, which doesn't bridge our difference.


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