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Thread: Why did consciousness evolve?

  1. #1 Why did consciousness evolve? 
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    I'm still pouring through evolutionary biology books. They are offering many new satisfying paradigms for the nature of evolution in general but non have offered any satisfying arguments for why consciousness evolved.

    It seems to be somewhat of an elephant in the room phenomena where all the books I read so far are eager to give great detail to how animals evolved, scurrying to tell in great detail of most of the links up to man however the huge gap, the deafly silence, seems to be on the 'great encephalization' of how we developed massive hulking intelligences vs. other species's poultry comparative brain size in relation to their bodies.

    A couple of theories I've seen bandied around include that it is a 'runaway' process (Zahavi) of sexual selection and our brains are the result of sexual selection comparative to the peacock's tail.

    Others say it may have been due to 'rapid environment changes' which caused strong envirnmental pressure to develop a very versatile mind.

    My main qualm is most of these whistlestop explanations are only a sentence or so long and the writers quickly bury their head in the sand of talking about things that are on surer footing such as fossils.

    So what is up with this? Is it that this is still a mystery to most or have I just not read the right books yet? It certainly doesn;t seem to be 'common knowledge' yet so maybe more satisfying explanations are out there but scarce? Where can I read some real in depth scholarly debates about this (book rec. key figures in the debate etc.) as most have proved unsatisfactory so far and everyone who I had expected to really dig their teeth into it have been tiptoing around it.

    So please expand out your on theories on this plus direct me to scholarly studies on the matter.

    One of the main issues is why it has evolved in humans and not other animals- forgot the fancy evolutionary term for that!

    I still feel very naive on the subject so as to not have much of an opinion on it at all yet however preliminarily, from what I've read, the most compelling seems to be so far that it has come about to compete with other humans whether it be for survival or for sexual selection reasons. When I think simply to my own life where I use my brain day to day it's in trying to get one over on my fellow man; either get one over or cooperate with them but usually it is in a competitive nature. It's not to get food, all that stuff is easy, the main thing would be for sexual selection issues tbh. Survival issues are pretty much solved now but the constant 'struggle' in life seems to be finding a mate (I'm not just talking about myself here). Prima facie however though this doesn't account for why we evolved it and other species didn't. I'm reading The Mating Mind at the moment which explains this is plausible under the sexual selection rather than natural selection paradigm due to the runaway principle stating that traits being chosen by 'picky females' means that whatever the runaway trait is that is sexually selected it will be a one time only deal simply due to female choosiness being so fickle. This would explain why it's unique humans but it seems like a bit of a bandaid type deal, grasping at theories however I have to keep an open mind as it has only seemed to be grasping at theories so far rather than offering any good evidence to back up these claims on the subject.


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    The short answer is that this area is a big unknown. It is completely speculative and this entire subject properly belongs in the "New Hypothesis" section. There is no satisfactory answer to these questions and no testable predictions. It is metaphysics at this point in time.


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  4. #3 Re: Why did consciousness evolve? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    The short answer is that this area is a big unknown. It is completely speculative and this entire subject properly belongs in the "New Hypothesis" section. There is no satisfactory answer to these questions and no testable predictions. It is metaphysics at this point in time.
    If the OP decides to actually make a new hypothesis, I'll consider moving this thread. But right now it appears he's calling for discussion rather than making any specific claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Synergy
    One of the main issues is why it has evolved in humans and not other animals- forgot the fancy evolutionary term for that!
    It has evolved in other animals, it's just not the same as human consciousness. But then, animal limbs, eyes and organs are not the same as ours either. There are many similarities, but also many differences. Consciousness appears to be the same deal. Variants of it are found across a wide range of species, from birds possessing basic tool usage skills, self-recognition and theory of mind, to apes demonstrating analogous grieving processes, creativity and self-awareness.
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  5. #4 Re: Why did consciousness evolve? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Quote Originally Posted by Synergy
    One of the main issues is why it has evolved in humans and not other animals- forgot the fancy evolutionary term for that!
    It has evolved in other animals, it's just not the same as human consciousness.
    How do we know that consciousness in humans is any different today than with the first human, with today's slug verses the first slug? How can we know consciousness has changed within a species? It seems self evident that animal behavior is different from one animal kind to the next but how can we translate that into consciousness? How do we know animals have the property we call consciousness in the strict definition? Is any of this testable?

    That consciousness evolved is speculation at this time.
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    It has evolved in other animals, it's just not the same as human consciousness. But then, animal limbs, eyes and organs are not the same as ours either. There are many similarities, but also many differences. Consciousness appears to be the same deal. Variants of it are found across a wide range of species, from birds possessing basic tool usage skills, self-recognition and theory of mind, to apes demonstrating analogous grieving processes, creativity and self-awareness.
    Hmm yes interesting.

    I suppose though what is more at issue is what were the environmental pressures which caused our particular, very specific brand of consciousness to evolve the way it did. As I understand it that is the main way evolutionary biologists go about their business- by asking what is this adapted mechanism for?

    ...and no testable predictions.
    Maybe not that but we can make inferences based on differing behaviours between animals, ourselves included, which may lead us in the right direction.

    So I'm guessing the main barriers to this thusfar have been having no equipment to properly test the stuff of 'mind'?

    Actually this is kind of beside the point of my OP- why it evolved in the first place. That is what I am inquiring about not what consciousness is made of (although that may indeed lead to more insights about the OP I don't think it's necessarily dependent on it).

    What are the main things which have hindered our finding out how it came about? I don't see how it is much more difficult to find out the origins or likely ones of consciousness when looking at the social milieu leading up to the 'great encephalization' vs. say finding out the factors which caused the croc's mouth to grow big. What has stopped up from coming up with plausible hypothesis based on these environmental factors?

    It seems a simple process of deduction- what wasn't around before consciousness then what was around after/during it's progress. Of course I imagine it wasn't necessarily one thing and maybe a range of things but this is all part and parcel of 'figuring it out' and this is why I'm asking why haven't we gained any substantial insights from this route? Are there other factors which I have not factored in which have prevented this etc?

    I know they say there was a massive 'boom' evolutionarily speaking, within a very short space of time, which incited the term 'great encephalization'. Surely this would make it all the easier to point to what other equally strong environmental pressure lead to this adaptation.

    Just found this in the abstract of a paper while doing a quick search:

    An extraordinary rate of hominid brain evolutionary development labeled "The Great Encephalization" proceeded without any respective functional (behavioral) manifestations. Such an unusual discrepancy looking like a "spontaneous" brain expansion with no connection to environmental conditions is not compatible with the Darwinian paradigm based on fortuity of mutations and selection by environments. The proposed explanation of this exceptional occurrence is associated with a concept of field which, as previously reviewed, has been employed in some theoretical models of consciousness. The suggested conception is associated with the theory of biological field by Gurwitsch which includes species-specific field anisotropy as the main postulate determining the respective species-specific morphology. In light of this theory, the exotic trend of the Great Encephalization is regarded as a consequence of a peculiar mutation in the non-coding genome portion which is widely considered as "junk DNA" with no functional significance. The mutation in this portion distorts the species-specific field anisotropy, which can be restored on a new steady level via a chain of further field-hitting mutations. Such a lasting field-based evolution imitating a certain "trend" explains the puzzling phenomenon of the absence of correspondence between the unprecedented speed of the hominid brain evolutionary development and a very slow behavioral advance that is evidenced on paleoantropological and genetic grounds.
    link to the full paper here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/conten...00002/art00009 free to download
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  7. #6 Re: Why did consciousness evolve? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    How do we know that consciousness in humans is any different today than with the first human, [...] Is any of this testable?

    That consciousness evolved is speculation at this time.
    Its more than mere speculation. Cognitive archaeology is a large and growing field of research which looks into what did humans think, how did they think it and when. Often applied to far more recent human behavior and material records, it is also frequently applied to prehistoric material records.

    Recent discovery of a particular gene, microcephalin (MCPH1), which became active at about 32,000 years ago could have caused human brains to become larger or more capable at around that time.

    Interestingly enough, the first Homo sapiens sapiens migrated into Europe, displacing the Neanderthals. The Neanderthals survived 200,000 years in Europe and their material record shows little change or innovation during that time. They used the same stone tool kit without any real innovation throughout that period (changes happened with the introduction of humans, either through mimicry, theft or trade).

    Even more interesting, this wasn't the first encounter of Neanderthals and humans. They encountered each other during the beginning of the last ice age at around 80,000 years ago as the Neanderthals pushed into the Near East. Only that time, the Neanderthals had the advantage and the humans were unable to compete. Neanderthals dominated the region for about 20,000 years.

    Flash forward to 40,000 years ago and the new encounter. Something is different.

    What's different, researchers are proposing, is that something has cognitively changed to make humans more innovative and more cognitively advanced, which permits planning and strategy. This is consistent with the MCPH1 gene's development as well as the changes found in stone tool kits and the new addition of art like figurines. While art and figurines are largely insignificant to us now, they emerged at between 40,000 and 32,000 years ago. One of the figurines is the Hohlenstein-Stadel figure of a lion-headed man. This not only indicates planing and a cognitive idea that is present then represented in a human-created design, it also suggests the ability to develop an abstract concept, merging to ontological ideas: one of being a man, one of being a lion; to create a third, imaginary beast.

    Examples of this sort of art flourish in the archaeological record after about 40,000 years ago where it wasn't present prior to it.

    Another, well known example, is the plaque from Tai, France which has a serpentine series of hash marks, demonstrated to be made by different tools at differing times. There are several hypotheses as to what this represents, but the most parsimonious is that it is some form of counting or tracking, probably of Moon phases. If so, then this is representative of the first known method of external storage of information. A precursor to the internet if you will.

    There are certainly good reasons for those afflicted by various superstitious beliefs to dismiss studies of cognition and the evolution of consciousness (just as these people do evolution, geology, cosmology, etc.), but that consciousness evolved is hardly a speculation. At the very least, it is present in humanity and it must have, therefore, evolved. The question isn't *if* it evolved, it is how and when.
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    Thanks Skinwalker, I learned alot from that.

    Glad I posted about this now as it seems it will be a good discussion.

    I too thought it rather strong to call the evolution of consciousness 'mere speculation'

    Could you recommend any books/links along the lines of this topic and your reply so I can look into this in more depth?
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    I can recommend a book or two and some journal articles, but here are a few with direct links. Most of this sort of thing is found only in off-line texts and journal articles (or articles available via library subscriptions -so if you're in a university, you might be able to find them. Check the bibliographies of the resources below).

    Renfrew, Colin and Chris Scarre (1998). Cognition and material culture: the archaeology of symbolic storage. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

    Renfrew, Colin (2009). Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind. New York: Modern Library.

    Wynn, Thomas; Fredrick Coolidge, and Martha Bright (2009). "Hohlenstein-Stadel and the Evolution of Human Conceptual Thought," Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(1), 73-83.

    Wynn, T and Coolidge, F (2008). "A stone-age meeting of minds," American Scientist, 96.

    You can find many of the Wynn and Coolidge articles on this topic at: http://www.uccs.edu/~faculty/fcoolidg/

    You can read more of Colin Renfrew's work at: http://goo.gl/4apy Unfortunately, there was no preview available for Mind and Matter, which is my favorite of them so far. I have Prehistory on my summer reading stack, though I may be getting to it sooner.

    There are, of course, many texts and articles which explore the methods, theory and application of cognitive archaeology, but I think these are among some of the more interesting. A good overview is also found in Renfrew and Bahn's Archaeology, which is a text often used by college-level courses.
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    Thanks.

    Na, I'm not savvy to a university library now having finished my degree.

    I kinda imagined, if it's still a pretty fresh area, that only the journals would have the latest tech'.

    I'll see what I can dig up online.
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  11. #10  
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    That's one of the reasons I chose the articles from Wynn and Coolidge, since they are online. And Renfrew is not only one of the most prolific writers on Archaeology, but of cognitive archaeology as well, making his works easily accessible at Amazon, Half-Priced Books, the public library, and Google Books. I'm a little disappointed, though, that the Mind and Matter book wasn't at least in limited preview mode on Google.

    Happy reading!
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    The research provides no mechanism and no ability to test for changes in cognition verses changes in knowledge, skill or cultural norms. It is speculation to select one cause over other without testable predictions. In the same vane as the book synergy mentions, the research appears to be another case of molding evolutionary theory to fit the historical evidence. There is nothing wrong with speculating, but let's at least be honest about what is going on.

    One group of researchers speculate that a particular gene appeared 32,000 years ago and could account for cognition but other research indicates communication and storage of information external to themselves is older than 70,000 years according to ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna at University of Minnesota.

    Skinwalker summarized my point best when he revealed his beliefs by comparing and contrasting his metaphysical presupposition with those of other metaphysical religious beliefs. His presupposition takes the form of "It (evolution of cognition) had to have happened sometime, it is not a question of if, it is of when"....

    The problem is that there is at present no way to test and validate his presupposition.
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    I have a personal theory about the evolution of consciousness.

    Note that this applies to more than humans. Many animals also have a degree of consciousness.

    I think that consciousness is related to planning. Consciousness is very much about 'thinking about oneself'. Pondering. This is related to planning.

    An animal without consciousness reacts to its environent. That reaction is rapid, and unplanned. See a sabre tooth cat, and run. Or see the bird of prey and freeze. Smell prey and attack. No thinking. No planning. No delays.

    But what of a human who is going to make a flint axe? The maker has to sit and think, and design a tool that will do what is asked of it. This requires time, and thinking.

    Developing a brain that is geared to pondering and planning is also a brain that becomes conscious. After all, what does the brain do when it is not actively planning something? It thinks about itself. It is conscious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Synergy
    ...and no testable predictions.
    Maybe not that but we can make inferences based on differing behaviours between animals, ourselves included, which may lead us in the right direction.
    It may also lead some to reframe the problem in context of their assumptions and then attempt to validate their assumptions with just so stories.

    So I'm guessing the main barriers to this thusfar have been having no equipment to properly test the stuff of 'mind'?
    This is just one of the many issues.

    Actually this is kind of beside the point of my OP- why it evolved in the first place. That is what I am inquiring about not what consciousness is made of (although that may indeed lead to more insights about the OP I don't think it's necessarily dependent on it).
    You and Dawkins seem to begin by assuming it evolved. What if cognition was a property of the first human? In that case it did not evolve at all unless you wish to redefine evolution to mean any change no matter how it occurred.

    How can these two alternatives be compared? What test is there to differentiate one from the other?

    What are the main things which have hindered our finding out how it came about? I don't see how it is much more difficult to find out the origins or likely ones of consciousness when looking at the social milieu leading up to the 'great encephalization' vs. say finding out the factors which caused the croc's mouth to grow big. What has stopped up from coming up with plausible hypothesis based on these environmental factors?
    Plausible hypotheses are fine if there is a way to test it. When you begin with the premise that evolution is what caused cognition, when it has not been shown to be true, the premise is not a falsifiable hypothesis. To test this, let's ask what is the alternative to evolution? If there is no alternative and since it has not been validated, then it is not a falsifiable hypothesis.

    It seems a simple process of deduction- what wasn't around before consciousness then what was around after/during it's progress. Of course I imagine it wasn't necessarily one thing and maybe a range of things but this is all part and parcel of 'figuring it out' and this is why I'm asking why haven't we gained any substantial insights from this route? Are there other factors which I have not factored in which have prevented this etc?
    The primary barrier to progress is the problem I am raising, namely it has not been established that evolutionary processes account for cognition and there other mind functions you have been asking about.

    I know they say there was a massive 'boom' evolutionarily speaking, within a very short space of time, which incited the term 'great encephalization'. Surely this would make it all the easier to point to what other equally strong environmental pressure lead to this adaptation.

    Just found this in the abstract of a paper while doing a quick search:

    An extraordinary rate of hominid brain evolutionary development labeled "The Great Encephalization" proceeded without any respective functional (behavioral) manifestations. Such an unusual discrepancy looking like a "spontaneous" brain expansion with no connection to environmental conditions is not compatible with the Darwinian paradigm based on fortuity of mutations and selection by environments. The proposed explanation of this exceptional occurrence is associated with a concept of field which, as previously reviewed, has been employed in some theoretical models of consciousness. The suggested conception is associated with the theory of biological field by Gurwitsch which includes species-specific field anisotropy as the main postulate determining the respective species-specific morphology. In light of this theory, the exotic trend of the Great Encephalization is regarded as a consequence of a peculiar mutation in the non-coding genome portion which is widely considered as "junk DNA" with no functional significance. The mutation in this portion distorts the species-specific field anisotropy, which can be restored on a new steady level via a chain of further field-hitting mutations. Such a lasting field-based evolution imitating a certain "trend" explains the puzzling phenomenon of the absence of correspondence between the unprecedented speed of the hominid brain evolutionary development and a very slow behavioral advance that is evidenced on paleoantropological and genetic grounds.
    link to the full paper here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/conten...00002/art00009 free to download
    Except Junk DNA is not junk, if it were, based on predictions from the theory, selection would have eliminated it to conserve energy long before it could have produced any coherent functional systems. Recent studies have found that up to 93% of DNA is transcribed. I suspect it won't be long before function is identified for much more of this DNA that previously was regarded as junk.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    The research provides no mechanism and no ability to test for changes in cognition verses changes in knowledge, skill or cultural norms.
    It most definitely does and has.

    It is speculation to select one cause over other without testable predictions.
    True. It can also be an hypothesis. No one is concluding that MCPH1 is the cause or that it could be the only cause. Several are hypothesizing that this could be and, through their research, posing questions and alternatives.

    In the same vane as the book synergy mentions, the research appears to be another case of molding evolutionary theory to fit the historical evidence
    .

    Perhaps from the point of view of the ignorant, undereducated, or those with opposing agenda to promote. Among cognitive archaeologists and researchers, the only desire is for knowledge and discovery, to be accepted wherever the evidence leads.

    other research indicates communication and storage of information external to themselves is older than 70,000 years according to ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna at University of Minnesota.
    He has a lot of published work. Can you narrow it down?
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    "junk DNA" was never considered to actually be junk by the scientific community. That it was is largely a myth - one that is even bought in to by many biologists. It crops up as a throw-away line in paper after paper for various reasons, yet you'd be hard-pressed to find the idea put forth seriously in the primary literature.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    You and Dawkins seem to begin by assuming it evolved. What if cognition was a property of the first human? In that case it did not evolve at all unless you wish to redefine evolution to mean any change no matter how it occurred.
    Now your'e being intentionally daft. The "first human?" This is just the sort of thing we might expect from a creationist, posing as a rationalist on a science forum with the intent to sow dissent and anti-science propaganda (but you claim, repeatedly, not to be a creationist -a lie that's beginning to manifest itself). No one who is even moderately educated in taxonomy, evolution, biology or speciation would suggest a "first" of any species. At best, there is a continuum of speciation that spreads itself over multiple generations.

    Moreover, the assumption that cognition (or consciousness if you prefer) was evolved is one that has little doubt. Humans evolved from earlier hominids. Clearly Consciousness evolved as well. There is no doubt (unless you are a creationist -for which such arguments would be off-topic in this forum). The only question is when and how cognition and consciousness evolved. Did it come about with the first generations of anatomically modern humans at around 150,000 - 200,00 years ago? Or is it more recent? The evidence shows anatomically modern humans to exist at least 160,000 years ago. The evidence for cognition exists in various forms from 2.2 Ma - 40 Ka.

    Earliest forms of cognition include the use of Oldowan pebbles, shaped into crude hand tools by Homo habilis. These tools demonstrated no bias for handedness.

    A bit later (1.7 Ma), H. erectus began using the Acheulean tool kit which not only provides evidence for advanced planning and vision, but a bias for right-handedness as well, which indicates a lateralization of brain function.

    The archaeological record clearly shows anatomically modern humans at around 160 Ka, but it isn't until 40 Ka that external storage of information is clearly evident (pending your citation). Its at this time we also see changes in genetic makeup as well as the arrival of artistic representation of the world by humans in the form of cave paintings and figurines.

    The evidence speaks for itself. The evolution of cognition / consciousness is not a matter of speculation.

    How can these two alternatives be compared? What test is there to differentiate one from the other?

    What are the main things which have hindered our finding out how it came about? I don't see how it is much more difficult to find out the origins or likely ones of consciousness when looking at the social milieu leading up to the 'great encephalization' vs. say finding out the factors which caused the croc's mouth to grow big. What has stopped up from coming up with plausible hypothesis based on these environmental factors?
    Plausible hypotheses are fine if there is a way to test it. When you begin with the premise that evolution is what caused cognition, when it has not been shown to be true, the premise is not a falsifiable hypothesis. To test this, let's ask what is the alternative to evolution? If there is no alternative and since it has not been validated, then it is not a falsifiable hypothesis.

    It seems a simple process of deduction- what wasn't around before consciousness then what was around after/during it's progress. Of course I imagine it wasn't necessarily one thing and maybe a range of things but this is all part and parcel of 'figuring it out' and this is why I'm asking why haven't we gained any substantial insights from this route? Are there other factors which I have not factored in which have prevented this etc?
    The primary barrier to progress is the problem I am raising, namely it has not been established that evolutionary processes account for cognition and there other mind functions you have been asking about.

    I know they say there was a massive 'boom' evolutionarily speaking, within a very short space of time, which incited the term 'great encephalization'. Surely this would make it all the easier to point to what other equally strong environmental pressure lead to this adaptation.

    Just found this in the abstract of a paper while doing a quick search:

    An extraordinary rate of hominid brain evolutionary development labeled "The Great Encephalization" proceeded without any respective functional (behavioral) manifestations. Such an unusual discrepancy looking like a "spontaneous" brain expansion with no connection to environmental conditions is not compatible with the Darwinian paradigm based on fortuity of mutations and selection by environments. The proposed explanation of this exceptional occurrence is associated with a concept of field which, as previously reviewed, has been employed in some theoretical models of consciousness. The suggested conception is associated with the theory of biological field by Gurwitsch which includes species-specific field anisotropy as the main postulate determining the respective species-specific morphology. In light of this theory, the exotic trend of the Great Encephalization is regarded as a consequence of a peculiar mutation in the non-coding genome portion which is widely considered as "junk DNA" with no functional significance. The mutation in this portion distorts the species-specific field anisotropy, which can be restored on a new steady level via a chain of further field-hitting mutations. Such a lasting field-based evolution imitating a certain "trend" explains the puzzling phenomenon of the absence of correspondence between the unprecedented speed of the hominid brain evolutionary development and a very slow behavioral advance that is evidenced on paleoantropological and genetic grounds.
    link to the full paper here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/conten...00002/art00009 free to download
    Except Junk DNA is not junk, if it were, based on predictions from the theory, selection would have eliminated it to conserve energy long before it could have produced any coherent functional systems. Recent studies have found that up to 93% of DNA is transcribed. I suspect it won't be long before function is identified for much more of this DNA that previously was regarded as junk.[/quote]
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    You and Dawkins seem to begin by assuming it evolved. What if cognition was a property of the first human? In that case it did not evolve at all unless you wish to redefine evolution to mean any change no matter how it occurred.
    Now your'e being intentionally daft. The "first human?" This is just the sort of thing we might expect from a creationist, posing as a rationalist on a science forum with the intent to sow dissent and anti-science propaganda (but you claim, repeatedly, not to be a creationist -a lie that's beginning to manifest itself). No one who is even moderately educated in taxonomy, evolution, biology or speciation would suggest a "first" of any species. At best, there is a continuum of speciation that spreads itself over multiple generations.
    And you continue to nit pick on ones prose. First human is an appropriate term to make a simple point for clarity.

    Moreover, the assumption that cognition (or consciousness if you prefer) was evolved is one that has little doubt. Humans evolved from earlier hominids. Clearly Consciousness evolved as well.
    It is only clear by redefining what you mean by evolutionary processes to include any imaginable process that effects change. The reality is that we don't know if consciousness has changed over time. You are speculating.

    There is no doubt (unless you are a creationist -for which such arguments would be off-topic in this forum).
    There is no doubt you are speculating. Why must you lie to support your metaphysical beliefs?

    The evidence speaks for itself. The evolution of cognition / consciousness is not a matter of speculation.
    How can you tell if these advancements are skill and knowledge development, social advances or changes in cognition? You can't.
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    As a creationist, you have an agenda against evolution to begin with, so there's no surprise you have a un-educated criticism against cognitive evolution to second with.

    Your participation in this thread is unwelcome since you seek only to detract from scientific discussion and present anti-scientific points of view from your creationist perspective. Please find another sandbox to crap in.
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  20. #19 Re: Why did consciousness evolve? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Synergy
    I'm still pouring through evolutionary biology books. They are offering many new satisfying paradigms for the nature of evolution in general but non have offered any satisfying arguments for why consciousness evolved.
    One of the reasons might be that "consciousness" is such a loaded term to begin with. It carries a lot of baggage stemming from the many religious sects who claim some mysterious yet un-demonstrated dominion over it. It also invokes a sense of "new age-ness" when talking in terms of "consciousness." The idea is more of an artificial construct than term in any utilitarian sense. A better term might be cognition and cognitive evolution, which is more inclusive, instructive and specific.

    Others say it may have been due to 'rapid environment changes' which caused strong envirnmental pressure to develop a very versatile mind.
    This is, of course a possibility. When cognitive advances were clearly happening as evidenced in the archaeological record, there were some changes occurring. There were floral and faunal changes occurring in the Turkana Basin of Africa between 4 and 1 Ma, noting the adaptation of many species over time to the grassland ecosystem, describing the switch between C3 to C4 vegetation in East Africa as one where C3 plants dominated the landscape between 4 to 1.8 Ma with a switch to C4 domination from about 1.8 Ma. The change was, perhaps gradual throughout the Pliocene to the Early Pleistocene with local, punctuated transitions nearer to the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary (Bobe and Leakey 2009), revealing a complex set of ecological niches available to early humans in East Africa, particularly in the Omo-Turkana Basin that ranged from forests, woodlands, bush, and grasslands at the late Plioecene into the early Pleistocene (Bobe and Behrensmeyer 2004; Bobe and Leakey 2009; Kingston 2007). Within this period is the appearance of the earliest lithic technologies (Bobe and Leakey 2009; Roche, Blumenschine and Shea 2009), trends of increasing brain size, reduced postcanine teeth, and increased stature which are consistent with changes in diet and subsistence patterns among early Homo (Roche, Blumenschine and Shea 2009; Rightmire and Lordkipanidze 2009; Kingston 2007; Foley and Lahr 2003).

    The transition of C3 to C4 plants from the late Pliocene to the early Pleistocene is significant because it occurs very probably as a response to the climate changes mentioned previously perhaps as a means of adapting to an unstable or cyclic climate that alternates between extremes of wet-warm and dry-cool periods. This change in vegetation also very probably triggers the faunal turnovers where mammals that subsisted primarily on C3 vegetation like fruits and leaves are replaced by those that are more successful in subsisting off of C4 vegetation like grasses and herbs. While many grasses are edible to hominids, they lack the digestive capabilities to extract appropriate nutrients from grasses and require a more diverse diet of amino acids and proteins not found in C4 vegetation. Indeed, hominids are more suited to processing C3 vegetation (Foley 1984). The necessary proteins and nutrients for increased encephalization are found, however, in the fauna that happen to be very efficient in consuming C4 vegetation (Heldt and Heldt 2005).

    I think that environment, climate, and demography were very likely factors in contributing to the encephalization and subsequent evolution of human cognition. This, I admit is hypothesis at best, speculation at least, but that human cognition evolved itself is not speculation. It clearly evolved and it clearly changes over the course of the existence of the genus Homo.

    One of the main issues is why it has evolved in humans and not other animals- forgot the fancy evolutionary term for that!
    Ah.. but it did. There were, at one time and depending on how you split the taxonomy, about 4, maybe 5, hominid species that demonstrated advanced cognition (some more advanced, obviously, than others). Homo habilis was able to fashion, with consistency, crude stone tools. H. erectus advanced this ability and demonstrated a cognitive leap in ability and lateralization of the brain (also evident with endocasts taken of cranial vaults). H. Heilderbergensis had even more additions to the Acheulean toll kit. The Mousterian tools of H. neanderthalensis are still another improvement in style, frequency, and complexity, not to mention apparent hunting behaviors, which are greatly improved over H. erectus. Then, of course, we have the introduction of H. sapiens, with the addition of new cognitive evidence of art in the way of amulets, necklaces, figurines, paintings, new burial practices, etc. -all absent until about 40,000 years ago.

    By the way, for those curious, my avatar comes from the First Humans edited volume that I referenced below. I scanned the image and cropped it for the avatar.

    References:

    Bobe, R. and A.K. Behrensmeyer (2004). The expansion of grassland ecosystems in Africa in relation to mammalian evolution and the origin of the genus Homo. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 207 (3-4), 399-420.

    Bobe, R. and M. G. Leakey (2009) “Ecology of Plio-Pleistocene Mammals in the Omo-Turkana Basin and the Emergence of Homo,” in F. E. Grine, J. G. Fleagle, R. E. Leakey (Eds.), The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo 173-184. New York: Springer.

    Foley, R. and M. M. Lahr (2003). On Stony Ground: Lithic Technology, Human Evolution, and the Emergence of Culture. Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 12, 109 – 122.

    Heldt, H. and F. Heldt (2005). Plant Biochemistry. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press.

    Kingston, John D. (2007). Shifting adaptive landscapes: progress and challenges in reconstructing early hominid environments. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 50, 20-58.

    Rightmire, P.G. and D. Lordkipanidze (2009) “Comparisons of early Pleistocene skulls from East Africa and the Georgian Caucasus: evidence bearing on the origin and systematics of genus Homo,” in F. E. Grine, J. G. Fleagle, R. E. Leakey (Eds.), The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo, 39-48. New York: Springer.

    Roche, H., R.J. Blumenschine and J.J. Shea (2009) “Origins and adaptations of early Homo: what archaeology can tell us,” in in F. E. Grine, J. G. Fleagle, R. E. Leakey (Eds.), The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo, 135 – 147. New York: Springer.
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    It's also worth noting that changes in brain size and complexity did not all emerge in the recent past, but have been taking place over the course of 30-40 million years - that is, throughout the entire Primate lineage. Setting the stage, so to speak, for what was to happen later.
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    After a review of this discussion, there appears to be a consensus on the nature of consciousness without a clear definition of what constitutes that nature. Consciousness is a confluence of neurological functions that evolved over millions of years before the emergences of our primate ancestry. Our brain has structures whose functions are remarkably similar to those of less sophisticated species. This means that the rudiments of consciousness may exist in species other than humanity. Without a foundation in brain function, all notions about the nature of consciousness are indeed speculative. Any idea about how human consciousness evolved, without a foundation in how the brain likely evolved, is incomplete and unreliable--in my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrmDoc
    After a review of this discussion, there appears to be a consensus on the nature of consciousness without a clear definition of what constitutes that nature. Consciousness is a confluence of neurological functions that evolved over millions of years before the emergences of our primate ancestry. Our brain has structures whose functions are remarkably similar to those of less sophisticated species. This means that the rudiments of consciousness may exist in species other than humanity. Without a foundation in brain function, all notions about the nature of consciousness are indeed speculative. Any idea about how human consciousness evolved, without a foundation in how the brain likely evolved, is incomplete and unreliable--in my opinion.
    So, are you suggesting that "foundation[s] in brain function" do not exist in our current knowledge of biology? If so, what then do you define "foundation" as?
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrmDoc
    After a review of this discussion, there appears to be a consensus on the nature of consciousness without a clear definition of what constitutes that nature. Consciousness is a confluence of neurological functions that evolved over millions of years before the emergences of our primate ancestry. Our brain has structures whose functions are remarkably similar to those of less sophisticated species. This means that the rudiments of consciousness may exist in species other than humanity. Without a foundation in brain function, all notions about the nature of consciousness are indeed speculative. Any idea about how human consciousness evolved, without a foundation in how the brain likely evolved, is incomplete and unreliable--in my opinion.
    I agree that we can't argue about a concept that we haven't cleary defined. However, I appreciate Skinwalker's references. I wish those books weren't so damn expensive though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    I agree that we can't argue about a concept that we haven't cleary defined. However, I appreciate Skinwalker's references. I wish those books weren't so damn expensive though.
    I agree too. Much of what DrmDoc posted is also agreeable, though I think I would probably take issue with his apparent position that not enough is currently known about brain development and function to arrive at reliable conclusions.

    The term "consciousness" is one that I choose to avoid where possible since it's meaning is loose and loaded as a term. Instead, I'm focused more on cognitive evolution and development. To be sure, there is plenty left to learn and investigate, but I think what we've learned so far is at least reliable enough to build on and learn more. There are also good understandings of brain function to the extent that we know certain areas and regions dominate certain functions.

    As to the books, the library and Google Books are where I get them. You would be surprised the amount of text available in Google Books.
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    Yes studying cognitive development sounds much more appropriate than consciousness. Have they pinpointed a specific area of the brain associated with the microcephalin variant?
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    Yes studying cognitive development sounds much more appropriate than consciousness. Have they pinpointed a specific area of the brain associated with the microcephalin variant?
    The authors I read were citing the work of another author relevant to their own work, but I took the context to mean the brain in general was affected by increasing size. The article in Science that they cited even includes this in the title, though I haven't yet chased it down to read.


    Evans, P. D., et al. (2005). Microcephalin, a gene regulating brain size, continues to evolve adaptively in humans. Science 309:1717–1720.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    The research provides no mechanism and no ability to test for changes in cognition verses changes in knowledge, skill or cultural norms. It is speculation to select one cause over other without testable predictions. In the same vane as the book synergy mentions, the research appears to be another case of molding evolutionary theory to fit the historical evidence. There is nothing wrong with speculating, but let's at least be honest about what is going on.

    One group of researchers speculate that a particular gene appeared 32,000 years ago and could account for cognition but other research indicates communication and storage of information external to themselves is older than 70,000 years according to ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna at University of Minnesota.

    Skinwalker summarized my point best when he revealed his beliefs by comparing and contrasting his metaphysical presupposition with those of other metaphysical religious beliefs. His presupposition takes the form of "It (evolution of cognition) had to have happened sometime, it is not a question of if, it is of when"....

    The problem is that there is at present no way to test and validate his presupposition.
    Cypress, one of the things I have been taught in numerous management schools is too avoid negative people. Some of the questions you raise some of the time are good questions. Most of your points reek of an agenda so riddled with angst and anti that it is becoming too depressing to read any more of them. That's a shame - with you on Ignore I shall miss the 4% of your posts that were worth looking at.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    I think I would probably take issue with his apparent position that not enough is currently known about brain development and function to arrive at reliable conclusions.
    ...
    There are also good understandings of brain function to the extent that we know certain areas and regions dominate certain functions.
    You are wrong. This is known from brain imaging, not because someone knows how our brains work.
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    You are wrong. This is known from brain imaging, not because someone knows how our brains work.
    Puzzling statement. Can someone not find out how our brains work through brain imaging?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    I think I would probably take issue with his apparent position that not enough is currently known about brain development and function to arrive at reliable conclusions.
    ...
    There are also good understandings of brain function to the extent that we know certain areas and regions dominate certain functions.
    You are wrong. This is known from brain imaging, not because someone knows how our brains work.
    Of course it's known from brain imaging, as well as at least one other method of observation that isn't image-based. But wouldn't this give us some foundation to work with when looking at endocasts of early hominids? Wouldn't this give us some ideas on what might have been a more recent brain development vs. a feature that is present in other animals and, therefore, developed first within a last common ancestor?

    I'm not sure where, precisely, I'm supposed to be "wrong," but I'm more than willing to revise my statements if shown.
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    Wow, I was getting behind on the replies here.

    Still have to read through your detailed ones skinwalker.

    I would agree that 'consciousness' is rather dirty due to the new age tainting it has accrued. I shudder at the thoughts of such notions as 'clear light of consciousness' et al.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skinwalker
    Much of what DrmDoc posted is also agreeable, though I think I would probably take issue with his apparent position that not enough is currently known about brain development and function to arrive at reliable conclusions.
    If I may clarify, my assertion was that we cannot cogently discuss the evolution of consciousness without discussing what defines consciousness and exploring the functions and evolution of the organ from which this quality originates. My position is that consciousness is defined by a confluence of neural functions that evolved in human and other animal ancestry over millions of years. When we examine the neural footprint of how the brain likely evolved, we should find relatively clear evidence of how consciousness may have evolved in humans and other species. So to answer the OP, consciousness evolved from a series of neural milestones in brain evolution influenced by the environmental and developmental forces compelling those milestones. I believe we can form a salient perspective of those compelling environmental and developmental forces by dissecting and evaluating the primitive-to-recent functional construct of our central nervous system.
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    Australopithecus had a brain of 400 cc some 3 to 4 million years ago.
    Homo habilis had a brain of 700 cc about 2 million years ago.
    Homo erectus had a brain of 900 to 1100 cc between 1.8 million and 300,000 years ago.
    Homo sapiens brain today is 1200 cc.

    In other words, brain size, and thus probably mental abilities including consciousness, evolved slowly and gradually.
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    If I may first inquire, Cypress, are you a proponent or opponent of evolution? If you are an opponent, I have no desire to debate the empirical with the irrational and unstudied.
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    Actually Cypress, that is not quite correct. Fossils of Homo erectus are found from as far back as 1.8 million years ago, and up to as recently as 300,000 years ago. What is interesting is that there is a gradual increase in cranial capacity over that time. The older skulls may show a brain size of 900cc while more recent skulls were up to 1100 cc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrmDoc
    Quote Originally Posted by Skinwalker
    Much of what DrmDoc posted is also agreeable, though I think I would probably take issue with his apparent position that not enough is currently known about brain development and function to arrive at reliable conclusions.
    If I may clarify, my assertion was that we cannot cogently discuss the evolution of consciousness without discussing what defines consciousness and exploring the functions and evolution of the organ from which this quality originates. My position is that consciousness is defined by a confluence of neural functions that evolved in human and other animal ancestry over millions of years. When we examine the neural footprint of how the brain likely evolved, we should find relatively clear evidence of how consciousness may have evolved in humans and other species. So to answer the OP, consciousness evolved from a series of neural milestones in brain evolution influenced by the environmental and developmental forces compelling those milestones. I believe we can form a salient perspective of those compelling environmental and developmental forces by dissecting and evaluating the primitive-to-recent functional construct of our central nervous system.
    I see nothing here to disagree with.

    If I understand you correctly, the term "consciousness" isn't one that should be discussed only in terms of human but as a concept that exists to various degrees among many animal species. Thus, an evolution of consciousness must, therefore, include the study of other species -compared and contrasted with each other, perhaps past and present.

    If I read too much into what you wrote, forgive me. I'm an anthropologist and archaeologist, so I generally think in terms of human first. Sometimes I forget the value of looking toward other contemporary as well as earlier species for comparison or to provide insight into my own.
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    Cypress' recent comments have been stripped from this thread as I've already informed him both in this thread and via PM that his posts were unwelcome since they're clearly an attempt to subtly detract from actual science and rational discussion. Upon completing this post, I'll be suspending his account for 2 days as a consequence for continuing to post.

    With regard to the comment that earlier hominid lines are "not considered descendants of the others," this is quite untrue. Many, if not most, paleoanthropologists consider Homo sapiens to be a direct ancestor to H. erectus -some, such as Wolpoff, go so far as to claim that they're one in the same species. A few argue that H. sapiens completely replaced H. erectus, but they concede that it is very likely that the first H. sapiens population evolved from an H. erectus one, probably in Eastern Africa.

    In addition, it is widely understood that all of the species skeptic mentioned are, if not directly descended from each other, descended from common ancestors that are temporally relevant such that the changes in brain size and the encephalization quotient represent an evolution of hominid brain over time.

    This, along with the increased complexity in technologies as well as subsistence and migration patterns are strong evidence for an evolution of cognition among hominids over the last 3 Ma.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Cypress' recent comments have been stripped from this thread as I've already informed him both in this thread and via PM that his posts were unwelcome since they're clearly an attempt to subtly detract from actual science and rational discussion. Upon completing this post, I'll be suspending his account for 2 days as a consequence for continuing to post.
    Thank you for your transparency in describing your reasons for taking this action.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    If I understand you correctly, the term "consciousness" isn't one that should be discussed only in terms of human but as a concept that exists to various degrees among many animal species. Thus, an evolution of consciousness must, therefore, include the study of other species -compared and contrasted with each other, perhaps past and present.

    If I read too much into what you wrote, forgive me. I'm an anthropologist and archaeologist, so I generally think in terms of human first. Sometimes I forget the value of looking toward other contemporary as well as earlier species for comparison or to provide insight into my own.
    Indeed, we all tend to focus on the larger picture of human consciousness (or cognition) in brain evolution with, often, too little attention devoted to the minutia of species ancestral to our primate lineage. While researching the dreaming brain for a book I wrote a few years ago, it became clear to me then that various components of the sleep process evolved in the more primitive aspects of our central nervous system (CNS) than those closely associated with cognition in our most recent (cortical structure). This suggested to me that the components comprising our overall cognitive function arose at various intervals in species more primitive than primates. Therefore, I had to compare our primitive brain structures to primitive contemporary species--comparable to those ancestral to primates--to get a sense of how far back brain evolution extends.

    If we can agree that cognition and, by extension, consciousness arose with sensory acquistion, then the very first stage of that development is suggested by the afferent sensory systems of the most primitive segment of our CNS, the spinal brain (myelencephalon). What was most surprising to me was how the afferent systems of our CNS revealed a contiguous path of increasingly sophisticated neural acquisitions leading to and suggesting a basis for our cognitive development. Our afferent neural systems, for example, suggest the emergence of mobility after a lengthy period of immobility in our early animal lineage. The contiguous path of our CNS suggests how increasing mobility demanded better mediation of energy expediture, which led to hypothalamic development. With better mediation came more sophisticated behaviors ultimately leading to developments pivotal in brain evolution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrmDoc
    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    If I understand you correctly, the term "consciousness" isn't one that should be discussed only in terms of human but as a concept that exists to various degrees among many animal species. Thus, an evolution of consciousness must, therefore, include the study of other species -compared and contrasted with each other, perhaps past and present.

    If I read too much into what you wrote, forgive me. I'm an anthropologist and archaeologist, so I generally think in terms of human first. Sometimes I forget the value of looking toward other contemporary as well as earlier species for comparison or to provide insight into my own.
    Indeed, we all tend to focus on the larger picture of human consciousness (or cognition) in brain evolution with, often, too little attention devoted to the minutia of species ancestral to our primate lineage. While researching the dreaming brain for a book I wrote a few years ago, it became clear to me then that various components of the sleep process evolved in the more primitive aspects of our central nervous system (CNS) than those closely associated with cognition in our most recent (cortical structure). This suggested to me that the components comprising our overall cognitive function arose at various intervals in species more primitive than primates. Therefore, I had to compare our primitive brain structures to primitive contemporary species--comparable to those ancestral to primates--to get a sense of how far back brain evolution extends.

    If we can agree that cognition and, by extension, consciousness arose with sensory acquistion, then the very first stage of that development is suggested by the afferent sensory systems of the most primitive segment of our CNS, the spinal brain (myelencephalon). What was most surprising to me was how the afferent systems of our CNS revealed a contiguous path of increasingly sophisticated neural acquisitions leading to and suggesting a basis for our cognitive development. Our afferent neural systems, for example, suggest the emergence of mobility after a lengthy period of immobility in our early animal lineage. The contiguous path of our CNS suggests how increasing mobility demanded better mediation of energy expediture, which led to hypothalamic development. With better mediation came more sophisticated behaviors ultimately leading to developments pivotal in brain evolution.
    Interesting...where can I purchase a copy of your book?
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    Quote Originally Posted by gottspieler
    Quote Originally Posted by DrmDoc
    ...While researching the dreaming brain for a book I wrote a few years ago, it became clear to me then that various components of the sleep process evolved in the more primitive aspects of our central nervous system (CNS) than those closely associated with cognition in our most recent (cortical structure)...
    Interesting...where can I purchase a copy of your book?
    When last I checked, my book, Neuropsychology of the Dreaming Brain (ISBN: 0-595-37261-9), was available through most major online outlets. I completed that book in 2006. Although it contains many of the insights I espouse, I have learned a great deal more since its publication. I am considering another book encompassing what I have since learned about our evolving brain.
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    I personally think consciousness evolved so that we could enjoy guilty pleasures. Otherwise they'd just be pleasures and God wouldn't like that.

    Sarcasm at the end guys...sarcasm...first part 100000000% truth
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    We have an idea of the how, OP, not the why. That's what science is all about; finding out how things work. I ascribe to DrmDoc's theory ( a widespread one posted here by the Doc in an older thread) that the thalamus and it's evolutionary development is probably akin to the evolutionary development of consciousness. The reasons why:

    -the removal of the centromedian nuclues leads to a loss of consciousness

    -and recurrent thalmo-cortical resonance theory:

    Wiki:

    "Recurrent thalamo-cortical resonance, as proposed by Rodolfo Llinas, is a dynamic time coherent event involving intrinsic neuronal properties at the thalamus and cerebral cortex and specific connectivity between such cellular groups. The resonance is manifested, at thalamic and cortical level, by time coherent gamma band oscillatory frequency (35-50Hz) between these two sites and results in the generation of cognitive function (Llinas et al. 1998, Llinas 2001). This function, which is intrinsic to the brain, occurs continuously throughout the lifespan of animals and is constantly modulated by sensory input during wakefullnes and generates dreams during REM sleep. Such resonance allows the brain to a) image the external world from a sensory perspective, in context with the state of the animal b) activate motor behavior in accordance of such input and c) modify sensory input (induction) into internal personal images (deduction) that allow the generation of ideas and intentions. This resonance can become entrained as an attractor at low frequency and generate a pathological state known as Thalamocortical dysrhythmia"
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    I'm no scientist. I'm just me. Evolution makes sense to me except the evolution of consciousness. Nothing evolutionist say about consciousness makes sense. In fact an evolving consciousness seems like a lot of wasted energy. Also in no manner are any animals self aware more than any primitive creature is self aware. I'm so tired of that argument that it makes me puke. Until we proof dolphins worship a creator or think about what happens to them after death it's all instinct. We are so busy down playing our uniqueness that we are blind to the mystery that is consciousness. The fact is no other creature on our world and for that matter no known creature in the universe is conscious and self aware on any meaningful level like humans. Why is that? Some just dismiss it as a "Loaded Term that carries religious baggage." Really! I hear folks talk of religious prejudice but what about Atheistic prejudice. Science tends to lean toward evidence that the need to worship or believe in a higher power, God if you will, is hard wired. Hard wired from the very earliest human ancestor. So if your simple argument is that consciousness is a loaded term then it's a loaded term from our inception as conscious creatures. I believe in evolution. I think it makes perfect sense when it comes to our human bodies. But when you add in human consciousness then evolution makes no sense and no current theory about conscious evolution makes sense. We humans should be eating, hunting, killing, taking or defending territory, mating, farting and living in caves or trees, or holes in the ground. We should have no thought beyond our next meal or reproducing. I'm not saying any religion I know of makes sense because it doesn't. But I believe consciousness is not something that evolved. Weather it was created by some freak natural process or by a being that just dropped it on us and left who knows. Weather it's eternal who knows. But you can ridicule me if you choose but I think science will never explain consciousness and the only branch of science that will ever come close is quantum physics. Whats amazing is consciousness is born every day in our world. Babies around the world are born and in all, but a few who will become serial killers, consciousness is born every day. In the end even if death is the end it doesn't preclude the possibility that consciousness is a created thing. I won't go on but theirs my opinion. Oh I have read several evolutionist hypothesis on consciousness. None make sense. None explain the wasted energy and none explain why were the only creatures to have higher consciousness. Good Day!
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    On a side note I believe even if consciousness is a natural process it's a unique natural process based on the quantum sciences and could possibly be eternal.
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    What if the universe is conscious? What if matter, dark matter, atoms, subatomic particles are conscious? What if the universe is a God type being. We could be beating our heads trying to figure out and the universe is sitting their laughing.
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    I think we need to be very careful before we sweep notions such as consciousness into more exotic realms such as religion and the mystical associations of quantum mechanics. Before we dispatch these ideas into the domain of the 'too hard basket' it pays to firstly clearly define what we are looking at and then strip away the obfuscations that appear to 'cloud' the issue. This firstly requires powers of critical thinking to reduce the problem to a valid context for discussion. Firstly when dealing with consciousness you have to ask yourself, does a rock have consciousness or for that matter any inanimate object? I think we all can comfortably conclude that consciousness fits firmly into the domain of life without having to adopt an exotic claim of a universal consciousness.

    If we conclude for obvious reasons that consciousness is restricted to animate things then is consciousness present in the componentry of life or does it emerge at the holistic cellullar level? For example, does consciousness exist in a ribosome or mitochondria or cell wall. I think we can safely conclude that it doesn't. The first signs of any evidence arises at the level of the cell......why? Do we need to invoke quantum mechanics at this stage? While I agree that fundamentally everything is ultimately quantum in nature it does not necessarily conclude that consciousness needs to reside in that domain. It is possible that simple complexity of information processing alone at the level of the cell and upwards has the 'power' to achieve this outcome.

    You can legitimately ask why does consciousness seem to be restricted to the animate and not be so surprised that the base building blocks of 'life' itself seem to also commence at the cellular level and no lower. So what is so special about the cell that provides the 'seed to definitions of life and also to consciousness'. One of the reasons is that the cell is able to seperate itself from its environmental context by virtue of its protective cell membrane. The cells use of bound objects allows it to establish internal energy gradients that can be utilised for productive purposes and a primordial basis for self subsistence seperate from the environment. The structure of the cell provides a basis to store negentropy and in this way sets it apart from all inanimate processes that follow the entropic flow of this universe. This factor alone provides a basis to understand why complexity alone as an emergent factor could be responsible for animating the otherwise inanimate. It provides the seed upon which layers and further layers of complexity through evolutionary processes give rise to the notion of a living being. In tandem with this feature are the array of sensors built into the cell that allows it to take measurements of this context. This allows the living cell to continuously monitor its internal environment against the external environment and harvest the external context to provide a further basis for self-subsistence. Through the seperation of the cell from its environment and the feedback associated wirth measurement and analysis provides a sense of disconnect between the object doing the measurement and the external surrounds. This disconnect provides a primordial sense of 'self' that once again can be progressively enhanced through complexity alone to a point where a muliticellullar organism possesses a firm stance of self-identity.

    Is there any real reason it is necessary to invoke religion or the woo associated with quantum mechanics to comprehend why complexity alone may not be responsible. We are naive to think that we currently understand fully the complexity of the brain, the cell and life itself. There is still more than enough room in more conventional causes to explore before we step into more exotic territory in pursuit of answers.

    Terms such as 'consciousness' are incredibly broad in definition. Complex notions such as this fit in the same category as describing this universe or describing what it is to be human. Inevitably these definitions arise from notions of 'emergence' as opposed to having a single definitive answer. We have valid models such as the Standard Model of Cosmology and Darwin's Theory of natural Selection which provide a progressive basis to understand emerging complexity. Something as broad as the definition of 'consciousness' is likely to require the same sequential level of understanding. None of these models seek to explain the origin but rather attempt to describe how complexity arises from these origin events.

    PS Just be aware that you have awoken a thread from the dead :-))
    Last edited by Implicate Order; August 3rd, 2014 at 08:54 PM.
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    Well long response Implicate Order. Read all of it too. However where you say do we have to invoke woo of quantum mechanics or even some mild religious reference and I say why invoke pure biological processes without entertaining that maybe we just don't know. I mean when it comes to consciousness I just don't think it can be produced by pure biological processes. I think Consciousness has to have at least quantum mechanical woo if you will. I don't think evolutionary biology can produce high consciousness and until biology can show me another example of my type of consciousness thats how I will always believe. Of course I could be wrong. I could die and just be gone. But I came from nothing and I believe I can come from nothing again if nothing really exist. Ever wonder what if God is not the loving God of religious literature but what if he just makes things and leaves? Makes consciousness and leaves. We could still die and be gone forever but still have a creator just not an all loving and caring one. In the end what ever lies after death is how it is. Wishing for life where no life is won't make it happen but using science to try to reason away what is won't make a difference if something does exist after we die. We just don't know and for now my quantum mechanical belief is as real as your biological one. I choose to believe my consciousness is made up of some yet to be discovered quantum process and if I'm wrong I'll never know. Good Day.
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    In the broad sense of evolution consciousness serves no purpose. The only reason consciousness serves a purpose is if it was specifically designed for humans. Evolution doesn't need consciousness or does it? If the universe itself is a sentient being perhaps thats where consciousness might come from. Hears the thing. If consciousness is one big accident of evolution, one big lottery moment then wow what a moment. Sure it could be just luck of the draw but even if it is I can't believe it because it is such an unlikely event. If seeing is believing then I'll believe we might be an accident of evolution when I meet another species evolution has given our high consciousness. If it can't be repeated I lend no credence to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joett View Post
    In the broad sense of evolution consciousness serves no purpose.
    That's rather a definitive declaration.
    Evolution doesn't need consciousness or does it?
    Oh wait, now it's not.

    If the universe itself is a sentient being perhaps thats where consciousness might come from.
    What?
    Then where did the consciousness of the universe come from?
    (And what evidence to you have that the universe could be conscious?).

    If consciousness is one big accident of evolution, one big lottery moment then wow what a moment. Sure it could be just luck of the draw but even if it is I can't believe it because it is such an unlikely event.
    How do you know it's "unlikely"?

    You also appear to be assuming that humans are the only creatures with consciousness. That or you're "defining" consciousness somewhat narrowly.

    If seeing is believing then I'll believe we might be an accident of evolution when I meet another species evolution has given our high consciousness. If it can't be repeated I lend no credence to it.
    In other words - argument from incredulity.

    You also appear to be assuming that humans are the only creatures here on Earth with consciousness. That, or you're "defining" consciousness somewhat narrowly.
    Last edited by Dywyddyr; August 4th, 2014 at 02:37 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joett View Post
    I'm no scientist. I'm just me. Evolution makes sense to me except the evolution of consciousness. Nothing evolutionist say about consciousness makes sense. In fact an evolving consciousness seems like a lot of wasted energy. Also in no manner are any animals self aware more than any primitive creature is self aware. I'm so tired of that argument that it makes me puke.
    Are you a creationist nutball?
    Use of the term "evolutionist" suggest as much, since it's a term seldom used outside of creationist anti-intellectual circles.
    --
    But to actually get into the biology a bit, there's a clear continuum of degrees of consciousness from animals with simple nervous systems to more complex. Even the relatively simple mammals have some self-awareness, a possum, for example recognizing it's caught in a trap and trying desperately to free itself. At higher levels we can consider the social languages of mammals...a marmot, who recognizes the danger of an eagle flying nearby and warning its group with a special cry that tells though of the type of threat allowing them to escape in response to the danger. It also seems clear from human language research over the past few decades that we have a nascent ability for similar instinctive communication but in our case plays more of a receptive role that's allows us to plug in the language of our teachers (parents).
    --
    But when you add in human consciousness then evolution makes no sense and no current theory about conscious evolution makes sense.

    It seems doubtful you're even aware of the current hypothesis. Which have you considered? (references would be nice). See this is were you start talking about works by such people as Singer, Crick, Koch, Edelman and many others that have made progress towards our understanding of how the brain works. If you can't then you've sadly placed your OP into the wrong sub-forum

    This thread is pending a move.
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