James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mystery of Life

Fred Reed's doubts about evolution, from a non-religious perspective.

My favorite part is where he addresses the heart of the matter - the mystery of consciousness, which neither science, nor religion, nor philosophy, has ever adequately explained:

With evolution the sciences run into the problem of consciousness, which they are poorly equipped to handle. This is important. You don't need to consider consciousness in, say, physical chemistry, which gives the correct answers without it. But evolution is a study of living things, of which consciousness is at least sometimes a quality. Evolutionists know this, and so write unwittingly fatuous articles on the evolution of consciousness. They believe that they are being scientific. But...are they?

Obvious questions: What is consciousness? Does it have a derived definition, like f = ma? Or is it an undefined primitive, like "line" or "point"? With what instrument do you detect it? Is something either conscious or not, or do you have shades and degrees? Is a tree conscious, or a rock? How do you know? Evolution means a continuous change over time. How do you document such changes? Do we have fossilized consciousness, consciousness preserved in amber? Does consciousness have physical existence? If it does, is it electromagnetic, gravitational, or what? If it doesn't have physical existence, what kind of existence does it have?

If you cannot define it, detect it, or measure it, how do you study its evolution, if any? Indeed, how do the sciences, based on physics, handle the physically undetectable?

Speculation disguised as science never ends. For example, some say that consciousness is just a side-effect of complexity. How do they know? Complexity defined how? If a man is conscious because he's complex, then a whole room full of people must be even more conscious, because the total complexity would have to be more than any one fellow's complexity. The universe has got to be more complex than anything in it, so it must be motingator conscious.

Ah, but the crucial questions, though: (Again, the possible answers are, "Yes," "No," "I don't know," or "The question doesn't make sense.")

First, does consciousness interact with matter? It seems to. When I drop a cinder block on my foot, it sure interacts with my consciousness. And if I consciously tell my hand to move, it does.

Second, if consciousness interacts with matter, then don't you have to take it into account in describing physical systems?


  1. I recommend Daniel Dennet's work on consciousness from a materialist perspective.

    Sure, consciousness is a dodgy problem, and Reed hits on it by asking all the questions that the whole concept raises.

    "Consciousness" is a concept, after all, and not necessarily a concrete phenomenon of nature to be explained. It may be just our shorthand way of describing and reifying intentionality, a useful illusion. If evolutionists have not yet explained consciousness to Reed's satisfaction, that does not impair the value of evolutionary theory in other respects.

  2. puzzling over the chemical explanation for consciousness and have concluded that the chemical model that we have, while useful cannot explain the phenomena. The concept of conscious thought becoming applied energy would have to occur through either vibrational or rotational modes of freedom, which are allowed in group theory by generating irreducible representations. Something is grossly missing because symmetry, when applied to protein chemistry is nonexistant because nature is chiral. Thus, chemistry has no explanation that doesn't counter electronic theory, though the first order approximation provided by the model we call chemistry works very well for natural products synthesis, which is our current form of natural mimicry.

    or in non-scientific english - its BS, but it's still useful BS to some. evolution, that is (and chemistry for that matter)