Consciousness, Emergence, Evolution Theory, and Scientific Materialism
- I am using the term "consciousness" to mean, at the very least, "conscious-awareness."
- It is generally argued by materialists that consciousness is an "emergent" property. That is, somewhere during the process of biological evolution, consciousness suddenly emerged in living organisms. Exactly when this emergence occurred seems to be a bit of mystery. And there doesn't appear to be any kind of consensus in the scientific community concerning which organisms are conscious and which are not. Also, keep in mind that consciousness as an emergent property cannot be compared to any other form of emergence we may observe in nature because every other form is physical, not mental.
- Evolution theory basically holds that the fittest survive by the process of natural selection. In other words, those members of a species with genetic traits or characteristics which confer some kind of survival benefit are the ones that live and reproduce and thereby pass on their traits to subsequent generations.
- Materialism generally holds that consciousness is a by-product or an epiphenomenon of the physical or that consciousness supervenes on the physical. Both epiphenomenalism and supervenience theory hold that conscious is not causally-efficacious. (Incidentally, both eiphenomenalism and supervenience are dualistic...but now I digress.)
Here's the dilemma for materialists as I see it...
Why was the characteristic or trait of conscious-awareness naturally selected if consciousness does not confer any survival benefit? In other words, why aren't all living organisms simply organic "robots without consciousness?" (Remember, according to materialism, consciousness is not causally-efficacious. So it cannot confer any survival benefit.)
"Scientists animated by the purpose of proving they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study." - Alfred North Whitehead