Critique Philip Johnson’s article:Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism

  • Thread starter Les Sleeth
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In summary: But the same arguments could be used to defend orthodoxy against the naturalistic theories of evolution and Newtonian physics, and they would be just as insidiously effective.In summary, the article criticizes the dogmatic practices of those in power, in this case the advocates of Darwinism. Philip Johnson argues that Darwinist theory has serious problems, and is open to some sort of creationary force/consciousness being part of what brought about creation.
  • #71
Canute said:
I agree with Les entirely that our education system is one of indoctrination, in which conjectures and hypotheses are fed to kids as if they are true.

But if you don't indoctrinate, there's very little you can actually teach. If you allow skepticism to run rampant in the classroom, you won't end up with educated people, you will end up with a bunch of ignoramuses.

It's not our fault that we don't understand our world very well, but it would be our fault if we failed to teach the little we do understand, or think we do.

It seems to me then that it is fairly easy to argue that it is consciousness that drives evolution. After all, if human beings did not want to survive then the species would have disappeared. All animals, at least, seem to have this basic desire.

I think it's fairly easy to argue that consciousness drives survival, not evolution. But I think I get the gist of your argument; it's obvious that physiological changes must be accompanied by psychological changes. If a species develops wings but does not develop the desire to fly, then having wings won't be an evolutionary advantage. That is an interesting perspective.

What the principle of "design" seems to be saying, though, is that the desire to fly comes before the wings. That I find very difficult to understand.

Guru of complex systems Stuart Kaufmann has expressed uncertainty over what it is that drives systems to complexity, the nature of the motivating force behind the emergence of biological complexity. He suggests it must be simple and 'deep'. Why not consciousness?

Why not an omniscient God? Why not the need to restore thermal equilibrium? Why not the uncertainty principle? Why not...

Do we really get anywhere with postulates like those? What exactly do they add to our understanding of anything?

To link this back to the actual 'creation' of biological life, if our desire to survive as individuals ensures the survival of the species then it seems a small step to say that it is a desire to live that brings life into existence.

I could certainly agree with that from a non-scientific perspective, but I think it's essentially not different from the idea that God created the world because He thought it was a good thing to do. Maybe we can nitpick on this or that choice of word, but the basic idea seems the same to me.

If I consciously decide to be celibate then this will affect the evolution of the human gene pool. Thus consciousness affects DNA.

Still the role of consciousness is selecting which DNA forms should be kept and which ones should be discarded. It's a very interesting point, as I said, and I haven't thought about it before, but it still doesn't explain how DNA changes happen in the first place.

It may affect it more directly, and perhaps some part of the consciousness of a person is transmitted via DNA, but I wouldn't know about that.

I think it's more complex than that. Since consciousness is "invisible", any effects it may have on matter can be ascribed to purely physical processes. Either that, or you must believe in miracles.

(I see nothing wrong with miracles, by the way, only don't think they constitute a valid scientific hypothesis)

What makes you say that there is [no precedent for consciousness having effect on the physical world]

For the reason I gave above: any such effects can be accounted for by purely physical processes. Even if they aren't.

It may be that practioners can affect substances at a molecular level, and there is a growing body of evidence that they can

I don't dispute that. All I'm saying is that what those practitioners do can either be explained as physical processes or can't be explained at all. Most likely the latter is the case.

What is it that makes you think this? How did maize evolve, or bananas? Or, come to that, evolutionary biology? Are you saying that you would have written your last post had you not been conscious?

If you take it as a premise that consciousness (or intelligence) is needed for evolution, then you can show the fact of evolution as evidence for your hypothesis. When your premises already imply your conclusions, there shouldn't be any surprises at concluding what you already expected.

Notice the same thing goes for the mechanistic camp. They start out with the premise that mechanics can account for evolution, and show evolution as evidence that their premise may be correct. In both cases all we have is circular reasoning. But circular reasoning is not the problem; the facts are there, and the best we can do to convey them is to add as little extra metaphysics as we can. Metaphysics should be left up to the individual since it can't be communicated anyway.

(Les is apparently objecting to the notion that a denial of metaphysics is a form of metaphysics itself. I don't think so and I think he's battling a windmill)

If you are saying that consciousness can do things via the brain then you are saying that consciousness is causal. If it is causal then why shouldn't it play an evolutionary role?

It can play a role in evolution, but it cannot be the main role. As you cleverly pointed out, sexual behaviour determines whether genes get passed on or not, but the role is still secondary.

If you are saying that consciousness is not causal then it doesn't do anything and your objections are no more than mechanical interactions in your brain

My computer is not conscious yet it tells me a lot of things that are true. I suspect we are not really conscious when we are doing logic, since we don't really have any options and reason in a purely mechanical way.

We do not normally think that billiard balls arrange themselves on the table according to their logical deductions concerning scientific evidence, why should neurons (microtubules, NCC's, wave-states or whatever) be different?

Because as far as we can tell there are no forces choosing a particular arrangement of billiard balls over others. That is not the case with organisms; we can't rule out the possibility that genetic mutations happen all the time but most of them are discarded. In fact, we witness genetic aberrations being born everyday. Would you be willing to concede that birth defects are the result of conscious choice?

Even if you think consciousness is the main force behind evolution, we would have to take into account the fact that most conscious decisions are... stupid mistakes!

Now whether organisms evolved through mechanical random mutations or conscious trial-and-error, the selection process remains the same. Ultimately it's nature that decides which changes can be kept, which must be discarded. So nature, and ultimately physics, has the primary role in evolution.
 
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  • #72
Johann said:
But if you don't indoctrinate, there's very little you can actually teach. If you allow skepticism to run rampant in the classroom, you won't end up with educated people, you will end up with a bunch of ignoramuses.
The question is, I think, one of balance. If we teach kids that scientists know everything, or will soon, then all one ends up with are ignoramibuses who are uninterested in science and see no point in exploring the issues for themselves. It is what we don't know that is fascinating to potential thinkers and researchers, just as it is unexplored lands that are fascinating to explorers and dreamers. But perhaps the problem is not in how we teach science, but the fact that we do not teach philosophy (not here anyway) and thus give kids no tools for critical thinking about science. At the moment kids are not taught that there is a difference between a theory like Relativity and a stab in the dark like physicalism.

It's not our fault that we don't understand our world very well, but it would be our fault if we failed to teach the little we do understand, or think we do.
I'd say that it was our fault, but agree that we should teach what we know. However, we should make clear that there is a lot we don't know, and in my experience we do not do this.

I think it's fairly easy to argue that consciousness drives survival, not evolution. But I think I get the gist of your argument; it's obvious that physiological changes must be accompanied by psychological changes. If a species develops wings but does not develop the desire to fly, then having wings won't be an evolutionary advantage. That is an interesting perspective.
Isn't driving survival and driving evolution the same thing? Btw I'm not trying to suggest that mutations play no role, or that all evolutionary change is driven by consciousness, just that consciousness has an important role.

What the principle of "design" seems to be saying, though, is that the desire to fly comes before the wings. That I find very difficult to understand.
I'm not sure that those who argue for design would necessarily argue that the desire to fly comes before the wings. For myself I'd just argue that wings are useless in the absence of a desire to fly. Would flightless birds be an example?

Why not an omniscient God? Why not the need to restore thermal equilibrium? Why not the uncertainty principle? Why not...
I feel there are problems with all these other answers.

Do we really get anywhere with postulates like those? What exactly do they add to our understanding of anything?
By postulate do you mean the idea that consciousness drives the evolution of biological complexity? I'd say the question is whether or not it is true, not what it adds to or subtracts from our understanding. If it is true then postulating it and then exploring whether the postulate gives rise to contradictions with the evidence would add a lot to our understanding. One could ask whether it makes sense to suppose that finches evolve with different sizes of beaks because they want to open different sizes of nut. It is the behaviour of finches that leads to variation in beak size between different strains of finch (shades of Lamarck) and why would they bother eating nuts at all if not driven by a desire to eat?

I could certainly agree with that from a non-scientific perspective, but I think it's essentially not different from the idea that God created the world because He thought it was a good thing to do. Maybe we can nitpick on this or that choice of word, but the basic idea seems the same to me.
In a way you're right. But my suggestion is that the process is entirely spontaneous and natural, not a deliberate and teleological policy of creation by some knowing creator.

It's a very interesting point, as I said, and I haven't thought about it before, but it still doesn't explain how DNA changes happen in the first place.
Genetic mutations happen, we know that. But we also know that conscious choice of mate makes a difference. If all tall people want to mate with short people, and all short people want to mate with tall people, then there would be no evolutionary trend towards tallness or shortness. Our choice of mate, which is a conscious choice, must affect the course of evolution, or so it seems to me. Also, is it not true that each set of genes is unique? In this case every combination of genes is unique, and every time a child is conceived a unique and unpredictable combination of genes is expressed. There seems to be plenty of scope in this for the emergence of new features that become traits, without any need at all for mutations at a nuclear or molecular level. However, I don't know much about this so perhaps I've got something wrong here.

I think it's more complex than that. Since consciousness is "invisible", any effects it may have on matter can be ascribed to purely physical processes. Either that, or you must believe in miracles.
I can't follow that. If consciousness is 'invisible' nothing follows for its interaction with matter as far as I can tell. After all, dark matter may be invisible.

(I see nothing wrong with miracles, by the way, only don't think they constitute a valid scientific hypothesis)
Well yes, any event that has no scientific hypothesis to explain it must be deemed a miracle. But this doesn't mean that it is one.

For the reason I gave above: any such effects can be accounted for by purely physical processes. Even if they aren't.
No event in the universe can be fully explained as a purely physical processes. Not yet anyway. Always we arrive back at the question of what 'physical' means. Cosmologists conjecture that the universe may have begun with as little as an ounce of matter. It's not a big leap to suppose that it started with no matter at all, and that the physical is just as empty of substance as is consciousness.

I don't dispute that. All I'm saying is that what those practitioners do can either be explained as physical processes or can't be explained at all. Most likely the latter is the case.
I think you mean that either science can explain them or not. What can be done by practitioners can be explained by those practitioners. If science does not accept that explanation it doesn't follow that there is no explanation.

If you take it as a premise that consciousness (or intelligence) is needed for evolution, then you can show the fact of evolution as evidence for your hypothesis. When your premises already imply your conclusions, there shouldn't be any surprises at concluding what you already expected.
I see what you mean, and it's true to a point, and, as you say, it's just as true for neo-Darwinism. The task is to find evidence that decides the matter. Part of the evidence is the gaps in the physicalist model of evolution, and part the fact that we know our consciousness affects our behaviour, which suggests it probably did for our ancestors also.

Metaphysics should be left up to the individual since it can't be communicated anyway.
Metaphysics can be communicated easily, this is why it's a recognised area of study with so much written about it. It's the truth that cannot be communicated, which is why metaphysics cannot answer the questions it asks. It's finding the truth that has to be left to the individual, not metaphysics. Metaphysics is the attempt to find the truth by reason alone, and this cannot be done, as has become increasingly obvious over the centuries. Metaphysics has to be transcended in the end, as Wittgenstein, Heidegger and so many others have argued.

My computer is not conscious yet it tells me a lot of things that are true. I suspect we are not really conscious when we are doing logic, since we don't really have any options and reason in a purely mechanical way.
I half agree, but this is whole other topic. When Gurdjieff speaks of the mechanisation of the human race this is related to what you say here. But this mechanisation is not forced on us.

Would you be willing to concede that birth defects are the result of conscious choice?
Er... Depends how deep an analysis one does I think. I don't know enough about karma to answer. Probably there are many potential causes of birth defects, copying errors being one.

Even if you think consciousness is the main force behind evolution, we would have to take into account the fact that most conscious decisions are... stupid mistakes!
Exactly. This is why I said 'design' might be intelligent or unintelligent.

Now whether organisms evolved through mechanical random mutations or conscious trial-and-error, the selection process remains the same. Ultimately it's nature that decides which changes can be kept, which must be discarded. So nature, and ultimately physics, has the primary role in evolution.
Nature yes, physics not necessarily. Physics excludes consciousness, Nature does not. Btw, I wasn't proposing conscious trial and error. I was proposing that our behaviour in life affects the evolution of our species, without any reference to Lamarck. I'm just trying out ideas really, and finding out what the objections are.
 
  • #73
Canute said:
Also, is it not true that each set of genes is unique? In this case every combination of genes is unique, and every time a child is conceived a unique and unpredictable combination of genes is expressed.


This bothers me for two reasons.


1, the logical fallacy in pretending that there is a deduction made here: if every "combination of genes" is in itself "a set of genes" then you have already stipulated these are unique so there is no deduction to make.

2 Non-biological observation, but, even if we assume sets S and T are different that does not mean that combinations from them must also be different.


It is certainly true that the probability of two combininations from any sources of "parent" sets to produce identical genes is practically zero, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.
 
  • #74
matt grime said:
It is certainly true that the probability of two combininations from any sources of "parent" sets to produce identical genes is practically zero, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Identical twins. Every organism has some means of introducing genetic variation, otherwise there would be no evolution, but there are plenty of unigenerational batches of offspring, especially from organisms that reproduce asexually, that have the same genomic sequences. Heck, we even have the curiosity that is the nematode, in which every single member of the species has exactly the same number of cells.
 
  • #75
Canute said:
I remember when my son came home from school with some physics homework concerning mass. Of course, he had been given no indication that we have no idea what mass actually is. I suggested he asked his teacher about this. Needless to say he was told to shut up. Mass is what the textbook says it is. I feel it is as important to teach kids what we don't know as well as what we do, and probably far more so.

Come on, Canute. This has nothing to do with the failing of your kid's physics class. The question of what mass is exactly is a philosophical question. Physics deals with physical ontology, not with substance ontology. For the purposes of calculation, mass is what it does, and that is all that matters to physics. If a physics class bothered to ask these questions, they'd be distracted from asking all of the questions that they can actually answer, answers that result in us having these wonderful computers to chat with each other on and ask philosophical questions. Do you have any idea how much a physicist in training already has to learn? If they needed to learn philosophy in addition, it would take ten years to get a degree.

Recently, as a favour for a friend, I looked half a dozen articles on evolutionary psychology. I was astonished to find that consciousness was not mentioned once, and did not seem to exist at all for the authors. Then I started thinking. We cannot claim that consciousness has any role in evolution without claiming that consciousness is causal. To claim that consciousness is causal is not unscientific, scientists have no idea whether is causal or not, but it is scientifically unorthodox in the sense that it is inconsistent with science's usual metaphysical conjectures, such as the causal completeness of the physical and physicalism. Perhaps then peer pressure is such that one cannot talk about consciousness if one is a professional evolutionary psychologist. Or perhaps I just happened to read an unrepresentative sample of articles.

There is a much simpler explanation for why there is no mention of consciousness as a causal factor in evolution. It's that psychologists don't refer very often to "consciousness" at all. If you want to look for desire and motivation as factors in evolution, you look for those words, not for the word "consciousness." It's a word that isn't used often by psychologists, not because of peer pressure, but because they don't know what to make of it. They have no way of researching the subjectivity of first-person experience that is scientific. Nobody does. You might see consciousness referred to in neuroscience journals, but even then, you'll see them mostly discussing global brain processes, not subjectivity. Because a scientist has no means of researching this matter, any mention of it will be speculative theorizing, which is found in philosophical journals. All you're seeing here is the division of academic disciplines. There is nothing sinister or conspiratorial about it.

But it does seem to me, as an outsider, that neo-Darwinism is a theory of machines. Why does it have to be this?

Because we cannot get inside of the heads of animals to determine how their subjective experience motivates them. Science treats animals as machines because it doesn't have the means to treat them as anything else. This is not so much a failing of evolutionary theory as it is a failing of science when applied to conscious creatures period. Yes, it has its shortcomings. It isn't a panacea with the answers for everything.

In fact, what you should be able to find is a huge rift in schools of human evolutionary thought. One team led by Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, claims that humans and all other animals can be reduced to machines. The other team, led by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, makes the counterclaim, the same claim you are making, that we must not treat conscious creatures as automotons. According to this school, no purely biological account will ever be enough to explain why evolution occurred exactly the way it did. Neither school is considered to be one of orthodoxy; you might be surprised to find how much disagreement there really is amongst evolutionary biologists.

The agreement really boils down to this and this alone: species of today evolved from a smaller number of species that lived in the past due to variation and selection. Darwin's natural selection, wherein a pool of varied organisms of a single species is dwindled by competition for reproductive and food resources, is one mechanism of selection. Sexual selection in sexual species is another one (and yes, there is debate as to whether or not the consciousness of the sexual creatures must be taken into account). Variation arises by mutation, recombination, and other mechanisms that are not necessarily agreed upon. Saltationism is not a significant source of speciation. Aside from these basic things, pretty much everything else is up for debate.

If having wants can affect behaviour then consciousness is causal.

Okay, someone as philosophically well-versed as you are should know that this matter it not so cut-and-dry. There are plenty of theories out there that purport to explain desire without reference to subjectivity. You may not be satisfied with them; heck, even I may not be satisfied with them (in fact, I am not), but you should not claim this hypothetical conditional statement as being a straightforward deduction. It may or may not be true.

If having wants can affect behaviour then consciousness can affect evolution. It seems reasonable to suppose that human beings have two legs because they wanted to walk upright.

Just to note again, there is literature on this; scientists do not just ignore these things. I'm not going to run a blind google search, but I believe I might have some old papers dealing specifically with this matter (of how human motivation may have affected the evolution of upright walking) lying around at the bottom of a pile somewhere. If I can dig them up, I'll at least give you the titles and authors of whatever I can find. They are old, though, and there is no guarantee that I will even remember. If I provide nothing, you'll just have to look for yourself or take my word for it that desire and motivation are looked at by some scientists as factors in evolution.

It seems to me then that it is fairly easy to argue that it is consciousness that drives evolution.

You have to be careful there. I would agree with the statement that evolution is at least partially driven by consciousness, in species that are conscious. I don't see how you can justify taking the assertion any further than that, however. At this point in time, as human action may very well impact the evolution of every species in existence in at least some small way, you might be able to say that consciousness has an effect on all evolution currently taking place (the claim becomes trivial, but you can still make it). You cannot say, however, that this was always the case. There is certainly no justification in making the claim that consciousness caused abiogenesis to occur, as Sleeth has done, without making at least several very large leaps of reasoning.

If our behaviour is in any way motivated by our wants and needs than consciousness plays a central role in the evolution of our species.

A role? Perhaps. A central role? That I am not so sure of. I don't see how anyone could take umbrage with the claim, as it now stands, that the drive for food and sex is what plays the central role. While we may subjectively experience these drives as desires, there is no reason that we have to. Zombie-humans, driven by hunger and sexual need, may very well evolve in just about the same way.

The only way to avoid this conclusion that I can see is to say either that our behaviour is not affected by our wants and needs or that it is possible to have wants and needs without being conscious. The former is a counterintuitive idea to say the least, and has no evidence to support it, and the latter seems to make no sense at all.

The latter is a bastardization of the real claim that is made, however. The real claim is that, even if we did not subjectively experience our desires, we would still behave in accordance with physical needs. Take simply the claim that desire had something to do with our walking upright. This is entirely possible. Perhaps the reason humans walk upright is because one of our ancestors had the desire to stand up. When he did, he found that it purveyed some advantage to him, and he taught it to his offspring. Then the Baldwin effect kicks in and learned behavior becomes evolved behavior.

There is another possibility, though. Consider the context in which this evolved behavior took place. Our ancestors did not crawl on all fours; they climbed and swung through trees. When they left the rainforest, they could no longer do this, as the African savannas that they left to do not have the trees to enable this means of locomotion. What they likely found was that walking on all fours slowed them down. They had bodies designed to hang and be elongated; scrunching up into a crawling position results in a rather awkward gait. Injuries ensue, and attempts to evade predators fail. However, when one discovers that he can strengthen his hind limbs and walk on them alone by practice, he teaches that to his tribe and, from that point forward, the Baldwin effect kicks in and stronger, longer hind limbs are selected for.

The former cannot happen without desire; the latter can. It might also be the case that the former can happen without subjectivity; while it might make no sense to you and it might make no sense to anyone but the man proposing it, it is nonetheless a possibility.


The rest of your post seems to step outside outside of my area of (admittedly scant anyway) knowledge. Therefore, I will not address it. You've made it clear that you aren't supporting any form of intelligent design hypothesis anyway, so I hope you don't get the impression that I'm trying to shoot you down. I am really only hoping to change your view of the state of current science, which seems to be negative in places where it should not be, due to perceived slights of your personal views which are not necessarily actually there. I hope only that you can discover for yourself the great diversity and debate that really does exist amongst evolutionary biologists and others who study the matter.
 
  • #76
Loseyourname - An excellent response to my rather one-sided post. I don't think we disagree all that much, but ...

loseyourname said:
Come on, Canute. This has nothing to do with the failing of your kid's physics class. The question of what mass is exactly is a philosophical question.
This was my point. We are not telling kids that it's a philosophical question. Rather, we are telling them that science is infallible and will one day answer every question. It is all too easy therefore for people to end up with a completely cock-eyed view of science and what it is about. For many people the basic impression of science they are given at school stays with them for the rest of their lives.

Do you have any idea how much a physicist in training already has to learn? If they needed to learn philosophy in addition, it would take ten years to get a degree.
Well, I wasn't really worrying about science specialists. They'll no doubt catch up with the philosophy later, and with the facts about what we know and what we don't. (Although it seems that very often they don't). I'm more concerned about the rest of the students, who gain a false view of science which may never be corrected. One can see the results of this all the time, with people arguing that God is an unscientific idea, that physicalism is a scientific theory and so forth. I agree that we cannot add ten years to degree courses but all I'm suggesting is that we could do with a bit more honesty and rigour in the way we teach science. At one time the idea of teaching science without philosophy would have seemed ridiculous. To me it still does.

There is a much simpler explanation for why there is no mention of consciousness as a causal factor in evolution. It's that psychologists don't refer very often to "consciousness" at all. If you want to look for desire and motivation as factors in evolution, you look for those words, not for the word "consciousness."
Fair enough. But my impression is that the term 'desire' is avoided just as assiduously as 'consciousness' precisely because desire implies consciousness. It's reading books on evolution from people like Dennett and Wilson (and even Gould, as far as I remember) that leads me to this impression, but perhaps other authors I haven't read deal with these issues more sensibly.

It's a word that isn't used often by psychologists, not because of peer pressure, but because they don't know what to make of it. They have no way of researching the subjectivity of first-person experience that is scientific. Nobody does.
I'd argue that this depends on how you define "scientific" but I know what you mean. It seems to me that to leave consciousness out of a theory because one doesn't understand it is dodgy practice. The majority of scientists seem to assume consciousness is not causal rather than avoid mentioning it because they don't understand it.

Because we cannot get inside of the heads of animals to determine how their subjective experience motivates them. Science treats animals as machines because it doesn't have the means to treat them as anything else.
That may be true, but they commonly justify this approach by arguing that they actually are machines.

This is not so much a failing of evolutionary theory as it is a failing of science when applied to conscious creatures period. Yes, it has its shortcomings. It isn't a panacea with the answers for everything.
This is what should be made clear in schools IMO.

Neither school is considered to be one of orthodoxy; you might be surprised to find how much disagreement there really is amongst evolutionary biologists.
Yes, I do know about the controversies. My point though was about how we teach people who do not know about them.

Okay, someone as philosophically well-versed as you are should know that this matter it not so cut-and-dry. There are plenty of theories out there that purport to explain desire without reference to subjectivity. You may not be satisfied with them; heck, even I may not be satisfied with them (in fact, I am not), but you should not claim this hypothetical conditional statement as being a straightforward deduction. It may or may not be true.
In this case I think it is possible to be dogmatic. Desire cannot be explained without subjectivity because desire is a subjective phenomenon. (Thus there is no scientific evidence that desire exists). So anybody including desire in their theory of evolution is inevitably referring to subjectivity and a causal consciousness. Would you not agree that a theory that includes desire but not consciousness must be incoherent?

you'll just have to look for yourself or take my word for it that desire and motivation are looked at by some scientists as factors in evolution.
I don't believe that scientists are fools and I know that all reasonable views are represented in science somewhere, alongside many unreasonable ones. But my concern is with science as presented to the public, and particularly to young people. The uncertainty of scientists on these issues is not made clear. This doesn't matter for a person who reads up on the topics, but most people do not. They are therefore left with a very naive view of science and place far too much trust in the pronouncements of scientists and not enough in their own common sense.

You have to be careful there. I would agree with the statement that evolution is at least partially driven by consciousness, in species that are conscious. I don't see how you can justify taking the assertion any further than that, however.
Quite right. But in light of Kaufman's comment on complex biological systems it seems reasonable to propose consciousness as the driving force behind such systems. However, as you suggest, this cannot be demonstrated since consciousness cannot be demonstrated.

There is certainly no justification in making the claim that consciousness caused abiogenesis to occur, as Sleeth has done, without making at least several very large leaps of reasoning.
Well, making leaps in reasoning is not such a bad thing IMO. But you're right, I quietly slipped in the the idea of desire driving the emergence of life just to see what happened. I have no third-person evidence for it or against it besides the fact that to me it makes sense and that science is currently baffled.

A role? Perhaps. A central role? That I am not so sure of. I don't see how anyone could take umbrage with the claim, as it now stands, that the drive for food and sex is what plays the central role. While we may subjectively experience these drives as desires, there is no reason that we have to. Zombie-humans, driven by hunger and sexual need, may very well evolve in just about the same way.
Here I think you're wrong. A zombie cannot feel desire. It cannot feel anything. It may act as if it feels desire, but ex hypothesis one cannot point to desire as an explanation for its actions. In my view if desire for food and sex plays a central role in our evolution then consciousness plays a central role, and if consciousness does not play a central role then neither does desire. In the books and articles on evolution that I've read desire is not even mentioned, presumably because if it were then the can of worms that is consciousness would have to be opened.

There is another possibility, though. Consider the context in which this evolved behavior took place. Our ancestors did not crawl on all fours; they climbed and swung through trees. When they left the rainforest, they could no longer do this, as the African savannas that they left to do not have the trees to enable this means of locomotion. What they likely found was that walking on all fours slowed them down.
Hmm. What do you mean by "they likely found"? In this scenario they couldn't have found anything. All that could have happened was, let's say, that the slower ones got eaten. The others didn't even notice this. You have to be conscious to notice something.

They had bodies designed to hang and be elongated; scrunching up into a crawling position results in a rather awkward gait. Injuries ensue, and attempts to evade predators fail. However, when one discovers that he can strengthen his hind limbs and walk on them alone by practice, he teaches that to his tribe and, from that point forward, the Baldwin effect kicks in and stronger, longer hind limbs are selected for?
What do you mean by "discovers". To discover something one has to be conscious. To teach something one has to be conscious and have a desire to teach. Also, doesn't the idea that one can teach something to a tribe and that this leads to a physiological trait in the tribe imply a central role for consciousness?

The former cannot happen without desire; the latter can.
I'd argue otherwise, based on my comments above.

It might also be the case that the former can happen without subjectivity; while it might make no sense to you and it might make no sense to anyone but the man proposing it, it is nonetheless a possibility.
It is very difficult to explain why human beings started to walk upright without mention of consciousness, as your attempt above shows. Always, in my experience, even in the most authoratitive of texts, consciousness is accidently assumed.

The rest of your post seems to step outside outside of my area of (admittedly scant anyway) knowledge. Therefore, I will not address it. You've made it clear that you aren't supporting any form of intelligent design hypothesis anyway, so I hope you don't get the impression that I'm trying to shoot you down. I am really only hoping to change your view of the state of current science, which seems to be negative in places where it should not be, due to perceived slights of your personal views which are not necessarily actually there. I hope only that you can discover for yourself the great diversity and debate that really does exist amongst evolutionary biologists and others who study the matter.
To be honest I find your views more balanced and less defensive than that of most professional writers on the subject, and I certainly won't mind if you try to shoot me down. I post here precisely to discover whether I can be shot down or not. That's why I state things a bit bluntly sometimes, to get a reaction and so test my views.

Yes, there is a great diversity of opinions in evolutionary biology, and I'm well aware of this. But this diversity takes a bit of work to uncover for a layman. In school evolutionary theory is, like so many theories, often taught as if it is a complete and confirmed theory and this leads to horrendous misunderstandings. My view of the world was so simple-minded when I left school that I wouldn't even class what I was given an education. I'm not a creationist but I think creatonists have a point when they argue for a wider range of views to be taught in schools. Where there is controversy or uncertainty it should be acknowledged, not covered up for the sake of making things easier to teach. For me this should apply to religious/spiritual instruction just as much as economics, biology or physics. Then we are developing minds rather than training robots for work.

In the end we don't seem to disagree on much of importance. But I'd be interested to know if you can completely explain how walking upright developed in humans without making any reference at all to consciousness, just to blind physical causation. I suspect it cannot be done.

I suppose we've gone a bit off topic here (sorry Les) but perhaps it is useful to examine whether consciousness plays a role in the evolution of species before setting out to show that it plays a part in the very creation of biological life.

Cheers
Canute
 
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  • #77
Canute said:
But I'd be interested to know if you can completely explain how walking upright developed in humans without making any reference at all to consciousness, just to blind physical causation. I suspect it cannot be done.
In reading this old thread I came across the above comment, which for the life of me I do not understand. What theory exactly suggests that human walking behavior is an outcome of "blind physical causation", without involvement of a physical consciousness ?
 

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