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Consciousness and Evolution


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12 hours ago, Gees said:

Area54;

I have nosed around in the Science forums before and noticed that science does not like endless and pointless discussions any more than philosophy does. Sometimes when a person is obviously ignorant of the topic of discussion, one of the members will say, (paraphrased) "Get a book, read it, then come back to discuss it after you have a clue."

Therefore, I recommend that you go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) or the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), both of which are on-line and free to use, look up Consciousness and read. Make sure you have a comfortable chair and maybe some popcorn. Once you are clear on what consciousness actually is, and have an understanding of the various theories, you can start a thread on consciousness. Expect the thread to be endless, assuming you can garner anyone's interest

I first became aware of the SEP several years ago. It may be more than a decade. I've read large chunks from it, including several on consciousness. (That's part of the reason I've characterised parts of your posting as nonsense.) I've also read a reasonable amount of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Descartes, etc, and the more recent and scientifically inclined Penrose and Dennet. So your indirect attempt at being patronising is simply amusing, as are your presumptions that you have (a)studied more about consciousness than I and (b) that you have a superior understanding of its complexity. In future please commment on the factual content of my posts and leave the implicit insults where they belong.

I have no interest in starting a thread on consciousness. This one is sufficient for the moment. I'm quite comfortable here. If you don't like it, you are free to leave.

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

Not at all, which is the point of a number of members on this thread.

It barely makes sense, so no; besides, what little sense it does make, is obvious and irrelevant 

We all have the suitcase but it's never the same size, which is why some have trouble dragging it around.

The secret is having a bad memory or failing that having a forgiving nature.

dimreepr,

I think the official definition of consciousness, with all its varied components, is absolutely helpful...for a starting point.

Then, in the manner Gee is attempting, you have to look at each aspect, and imagine a precursor of human not having each aspect.  What is the order that certain aspects of consciousness had to arrive in, in the march from single cell to human.  What did you need to dream?  Does a single cell dream?  If not, why not?  Are there things that are like sleep that are precursors or relatives of sleep.  Why do we dream?  Would we need to dream if we were not conscious? Could we dream if we were not conscious?  How does a lifeform go from being not conscious, in the human sense, devoid of most if not all of the aspects in the definition of consciousness, to having something like one or several of the aspects.

That is how and where did consciousness emerge during our evolution?

Since it is admittedly complex, it had to have evolved in stages, in amounts in increments, but it also has to be made up of components we can witness in relatives on the scale, and various aspects have to be present in their precursor form, in each of our ancestors.

To this communication with the world is evidently central. As you say obvious, but not as you say irrelevant.

To be conscious of your hunger so you eat and gain energy for another move is crucial.

To be conscious of your prey or a piece of fruit in a tree, is crucial to survival.

Communication is the transfer of information from one entity to another.   The light reflected off the fruit reaches the eye of the mammal and these wavelengths are focused on the back of the eye and chemical  and electrical signals are generated from each rod and cone to where an analog representation of the fruit, in shape and size and color is established in the connections and neurons and folds of the brain.   A bond is thusly formed between the fruit and the mammal.   Communication is a central part of consciousness.  As Gee suggests.

Regards, TAR

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27 minutes ago, iNow said:

Given the exchanges taking place here on definition, and the interest in the topic we all share, perhaps this brief video will help. The science of consciousness:

 

 

I look forward to the empirical definition...:)

Edited by dimreepr
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iNow,

Nice clip.   

Although I don't feel I am as far from an empirical understanding of consciousness, as the clip suggests "we" are.

I think Gee and Tub and you and I are getting closer and closer to a nice explanation.

One of the roadblocks I think people have, to determining what consciousness is, is considering it  as something private and special and generated in some magical way.   I think perhaps this idea is seeded by the creation story where god made the heavens and the Earth and the other creatures, and then created Adam and Eve, in his image.

Obviously for those that believe in evolution, there is nothing "special" about us.    We are in and of the universe and are not separate from it but by the envelope of our skin cells.   The "illusion" of the world that the philosophers talk about, is, in my estimation, no illusion at all, but an analog representation of what is outside, within the folds of our brain.

A piece of fruit hanging on a tree, that we see ,  must have a correlate in our brain or we would not be aware of it.

So this is simple.  The human machine, senses the world and registers it in the brain, and compares it with previous sense input to recognize change, and is able to both  remember and replay, experience again, combinations of sensory input, AND predict how combinations of  things, behaving as they did before, might behave in new arrangements, by putting those mental correlates together internally for planning purposes.

Special in the sense that we can do it and rocks can't, but not special in that every other fully functioning human can do it and dog's can bark at you, knowing you will then notice it's six o'clock and time for dinner. (so dogs can do it too).

The other roadblock is that scientists have no way to prove that what they experience as consciousness is also going on in another human's head.

Silly roadblock.   It is functionally obvious when everybody in the theatre jumps and gasps at the same moment, when the killer appears suddenly,  that we are all experiencing the same world in the same manner at the same moment.

Regards, TAR

Edited by tar
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Simplistically, consciousness is merely the awareness suggested by the responses of an organism to stimuli; however, that simplistic awareness or consciousness doesn't always rise to the level of human awareness.  I think most of us will agree that there are varying levels of consciousness with humanity defining the level and our general understanding of what consciousness may truly be.  For this discussion and to most science-minded people, consciousness is expressed by observed and observable human-equivalent behaviors, responses to stimuli, and reactions.  I say "human-equivalent" because that meter of consciousness is the only measure we are truly able to scientifically verifying and, therefore, truly capable of understanding.  Consciousness is an expression of brain function and the equivalency of human brain structure and function enables our ability to test and verify our theories about the nature of consciousness in humans.  That equivalency in structure and function can and does extend to other species as well, which suggests that non-human species are also capable of some meter of human consciousness.  Regarding the OP, I think most of us of scientific mindset agrees that consciousness is indeed a product  of evolution and that it's not a quality particularly unique to humanity.

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On 04/09/2017 at 0:41 AM, Gees said:

Sentience is the lowest form of consciousness, and all life is sentient, so all life is conscious.

As others have remarked, this renders the word "conscious" of little practical value. However, if we take this definition at face value, then it is trivially true that consciousness and evolution are linked: awareness (sentience) is a factor in determining fitness which impacts on selection and thus evolution.

What has not, as far as I can see, been directly addressed yet is that Gees opens with a strawman:

On 03/09/2017 at 3:12 AM, Gees said:

Having read numerous threads in this forum and others regarding evolution, I have noted a general consensus of opinion that consciousness has absolutely nothing to do with evolution

Perhaps Gees will favour us with a couple of such examples to demonstrate that her statement is not groundless.

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1 hour ago, tar said:

 

 

The other roadblock is that scientists have no way to prove that what they experience as consciousness is also going on in another human's head.

Silly roadblock.   It is functionally obvious when everybody in the theatre jumps and gasps at the same moment, when the killer appears suddenly,  that we are all experiencing the same world in the same manner at the same moment.

Regards, TAR

This too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_mentality

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Another that popped into one of my feeds just yesterday and that folks here may enjoy.

Relevant part of the conversation begins around time point 26:30 (the earlier stuff is off-topic and intro related).

Enjoy. 

 

The Nature of Consciousness: A Conversation with Thomas Metzinge

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-nature-of-consciousness

Quote

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Thomas Metzinger about the scientific and experiential understanding of consciousness. They also talk about the significance of WWII for the history of ideas, the role of intuition in science, the ethics of building conscious AI, the self as an hallucination, how we identify with our thoughts, attention as the root of the feeling of self, the place of Eastern philosophy in Western science, and the limitations of secular humanism.

Thomas K. Metzinger is full professor and director of the theoretical philosophy group and the research group on neuroethics/neurophilosophy at the department of philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. He is the founder and director of the MIND group and Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies, Germany. His research centers on analytic philosophy of mind, applied ethics, philosophy of cognitive science, and philosophy of mind. He is the editor of Neural Correlates of Consciousnessand the author of Being No One and The Ego Tunnel.

 

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 aiNow,

I like the term "neural correlate" but I don't like the idea that anybody thinks there is a neural correlate to consciousness. Like some magic combination of a certain number of processors or memory chips wired together in a certain fashion, and poof there is consciousness.  I think it is much more a holistic thing than that.  Something you need a whole living organism, existing in an actual environment made of the same stuff, to achieve.  I think Dr. Frankenstein would disagree, but I don't think there is a proper voltage, that turns a dead collection of stuff into a living collection of stuff.

There does indeed have to be neural correlates to the various pieces of consciousness, and I think, to the thread title, one can trace the emergence of consciousness through the evolutionary trail, but I don't think we can "make" consciousness happen any more than we can create life.

Regards, TAR

 

Edited by tar
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21 hours ago, Gees said:

I have nosed around in the Science forums before and noticed that science does not like endless and pointless discussions any more than philosophy does.

!

Moderator Note

Can you please give the definition of consciousness you'd like to use for the purposes of this thread? It's been requested multiple times, and the lack of clarity seems to be adding to the endlessness and pointlessness. It doesn't have to be comprehensive as long as it brings everyone to the same page.

 
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On ‎9‎/‎9‎/‎2017 at 4:44 AM, iNow said:

Of course part the problem ties back to my original reply. You've failed to define consciousness and consequently we all are here discussing different things yet using the same label. 

iNow;

Yes. You are not the first person to be frustrated with the definition of consciousness. I remember thinking that this term was ridiculous as it defined almost nothing. I even decided to clarify it by creating better terminology, but the idea did not last long. It occurred to me that I would spend more time teaching people my definitions than I would spend studying it. Let us be honest, do you really think that Chalmers, Searle, and Dennett were never frustrated with this foggy word? If they, with all of their authority, could not create a better definition, then who would listen to mine? So I have to go with established terms.

 

Of course, Dennett cheated, which is why I have no respect for him. He decided to study a portion of consciousness, the part that neurology studies and is the rational aspect of mind associated with the brain. By doing this, and forgetting the other portions of consciousness, he has supported the idea that consciousness is ONLY human consciousness, which is absurd and clearly reflects the Christian religious notion of humans being the only ones who have a soul -- and Dennett, from what I have seen, seems to hate religion. So go figure.

 

If Dennett lived 400 or 500 years ago, I could forgive him for just being ignorant, but that is not the case. We now know about the unconscious aspect of mind, we know that other species are conscious, we know that other species possess language skills, and we know that all life is sentient (conscious). So I see Dennett as a wannabe scientist, someone who did not make the grade, or a disloyal philosopher, someone who plays with the truth. I don’t like disinformation.

 

As to his thoughts about the brain creating illusion, I find all of the theories regarding illusion and consciousness suspect. It occurs to me that if I take my illusionary hammer and drop it on my illusionary toe, I will go right to the illusionary store and pick up some illusionary steel-toed shoes, because it REALLY hurts. This goes to the question of what is real.

 

 

So as to my own understanding. The word, conscious means aware, and vice-versa. In my Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, the term awareness is referred to the term consciousness.

 

When I say consciousness, you can consider it an umbrella term that applies to each and/or all of the things in the definition of consciousness; sentience, awareness, consciousness, etc.

 

If I say conscious, I am generally talking about awareness with thought added, so this is what most people consider conscious.

 

If I say aware, I am generally talking about awareness in it’s simplest form -- without thought -- just perception.

 

If I am referring to the conscious mind, what most people think of as their mind, I will generally refer to it as the rational mind.

 

If I am referring to the unconscious aspect of mind, I will generally state it as such.

 

If I am referring to sentience, I am generally talking about the ability to perceive, sense, or feel.

 

If I make a reference that does not seem to correspond with the above, please call me on it, so I can clarify my point, or correct myself. That didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Thank you for your patience.

 

This isn’t really my understanding of consciousness, but it is a start.

 

Gee

 

Phi for All;

Did you miss the definition on the last page? Page 4

Gee

 

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47 minutes ago, Gees said:

I see Dennett as a wannabe scientist... He has supported the idea that consciousness is ONLY human consciousness,

Having read and listened to Dennett speak, I didn't sense this at all and find this assertion highly suspect. Please support that second part, preferably with direct quotes shared in context. 

47 minutes ago, Gees said:

As to his thoughts about the brain creating illusion, I find all of the theories regarding illusion and consciousness suspect.

The challenge here is the science disagrees with you. You seem rather emotional and married to some speculative notion... a gut feeling... and seem to be choosing to disregard all we've learned in recent decades.

It really boils down (distills down?) to chemistry and patterns of electricity. Change either in even very subtle ways and you immediately  change both awareness and consciousness. Despite your protestations, both appear very much to be illusions continually crafted by what's happening within and around us, what we've eaten, how tired we are, where we find ourselves, which parts are firing and which are dormant. 

47 minutes ago, Gees said:

It occurs to me that if I take my illusionary hammer and drop it on my illusionary toe, I will go right to the illusionary store and pick up some illusionary steel-toed shoes, because it REALLY hurts. This goes to the question of what is real.

Acknowledging that chemistry drives us and awareness/consciousness/self appear to be illusions continually crafted in no way changes our experience of the world. It just allows us to be more accurate and more precise while describing and discussing it. 

------------------------------

“I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well. He'll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing," and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.”

~Richard Feynman

Edited by iNow
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11 hours ago, iNow said:

Having read and listened to Dennett speak, I didn't sense this at all and find this assertion highly suspect. Please support that second part, preferably with direct quotes shared in context. 

The challenge here is the science disagrees with you. You seem rather emotional and married to some speculative notion... a gut feeling... and seem to be choosing to disregard all we've learned in recent decades.

It really boils down (distills down?) to chemistry and patterns of electricity. Change either in even very subtle ways and you immediately  change both awareness and consciousness. Despite your protestations, both appear very much to be illusions continually crafted by what's happening within and around us, what we've eaten, how tired we are, where we find ourselves, which parts are firing and which are dormant. 

 

iNow,

I have not, like you, listened to Dennett.  And I have only read a little snippet here and there, so I don't know what he means by illusion, but I am of the thought that illusion is a bad term, because it has that "ill" in it, making it seem somehow substandard or defective. Like real knowledge of the place can be had by some other, inhuman, method.

There is not a scientist  I know about that does not use her eyes and ears and nose and tongue and fingertips to sense the world around her.   All that outside stuff gets brought inside and a "true" representation of what was sensed is built internally.  How can this be false?  It is the actual world that is modeled.  The model is not real, it is composed of neural correlates in the sense that a rose is not really in your skull, yet you have a "picture" of it, a model of it, a representation of it constructed in the distances between and the chemicals between the synapses and folds in your brain.  TAR, here in NJ has a "feeling" of an entire universe around me,  I see the Pine trees and shed outside the window in front of me,  I hear my wife's cough from a cold, out on the deck, I watch the hurricane's damage on TV, I imagine you in the audience listening to Dennett speak.   I have a whole universe built in the synapses and folds of my brain. I watched the whirlpool galaxy collision  from the slopes of Mt. Rainer, on a crystal clear and chilly night a few weeks ago, through a 14 inch telescope set up by an expert couple and watched as two rangers took 10 or 12, 35 second exposers of the same, and then the crowd of us voted on adjusting brightness and contrast and color, and the images were then sent to my wife's email.     

There is nothing ill about my feeling, and understanding of the world around me.   It corresponds exactly to the atoms, to the galaxy, to the world you sense around you.

Regards, TAR

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55 minutes ago, tar said:

but I am of the thought that illusion is a bad term, because it has that "ill" in it, making it seem somehow substandard or defective.

Good grief

on the other hand it has "us" in it so it is nice and inclusive. And ions to give us energy. 

Edited by Strange
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33 minutes ago, tar said:

illusion is a bad term, because it has that "ill" in it, making it seem somehow substandard or defectiv

I feel the same about words like Assertive and  Buttons. Just foul...

Edited by Silvestru
misspell
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38 minutes ago, tar said:

iNow,

I have not, like you, listened to Dennett.  And I have only read a little snippet here and there, so I don't know what he means by illusion, but I am of the thought that illusion is a bad term, because it has that "ill" in it, making it seem somehow substandard or defective. Like real knowledge of the place can be had by some other, inhuman, method.

1

It's never unwise to talk, tar, just be aware that not all talk is wise.

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2 hours ago, tar said:

I have not, like you, listened to Dennett.  And I have only read a little snippet here and there, so I don't know what he means by illusion, but...

...But nothing. If you want to know what he means, find out. 

2 hours ago, tar said:

There is not a scientist  I know about that does not use her eyes and ears and nose and tongue and fingertips to sense the world around her.   All that outside stuff gets brought inside and a "true" representation of what was sensed is built internally.  How can this be false? 

That's the illusion, Tar, and nobody is calling it false. Just manufactured. Authored, as it were (and I'm not touching the silliness with word etymology).

Edited by iNow
removed video. didn't really address the point as intended
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iNow,

I have my opinions about life and consciousness and I think the way we sense the world and remember it and plan and predict and manipulate the place is evidence that the model we build of the place, within the synapses and folds of our brains is actually quite representative of the place.   It works.  Like Gee says, you drop the hammer on your toe and it hurts.  Don't like the idea  that people call our way of sensing and remembering the world and the way we notice change and make analogies, and pattern match and complete patterns  a bad way to go about internalizing the world.  It is not an illusion.  Thinking there is an Oasis on the dessert in the heat waves looking like water...that is an illusion.  There is nothing wrong with how a crowd of us  witnessed this

unnamed.jpg

We did not author those galaxies.

Edited by tar
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30 minutes ago, tar said:

It is not an illusion.

I understand that's your position... and it seems clear that you're somehow feeling offended that I'd dare claim our sense of consciousness and self and awareness are forms of postdictive illusion... but your position is IMO sadly mistaken, disappointingly uninformed, and frustratingly speculative... as if your opinions are as good as my facts and deserve to be given equal deference. 

I know with enough time and patience I could convince you of the validity of my stance, but I must apologize that I currently find myself rather short on both right now. 

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iNow,

It does not matter if our consciousness is a form of postdictive illusion.  If our illusory consciousness allows us to run experiments on postdictive illusion, well then, there you go, we are not incapacitated by any mistakes brought into the situation by  our propensity for postdictive illusions.  And we all suffer from the same disease.  So we have to go from there.

I am not refuting any facts of yours, I am arguing interpretation, and implications.

And am basically of the opinion that consciousness is not a disease, it is a rather impressive victory.

Regards, TAR

Edited by tar
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iNow,

Who is pushing back?  I am stating clearly my opinion that what we humans know of the world is not illusion.  It is the actual world that we know.   If Dennett needs to call our feelings of choice an illusion, fine, it has nothing to do with the fact that a bunch of humans stood together and witnessed the Milky Way, some nebulae, some colliding galaxies, at the same time, in the same way.   No defects in the awareness of the place noted.

Regards, TAR

Edited by tar
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iNow;

Bear in mind that you are posting  in the Philosophy forum. Philosophy does not get it's answers handed to it, so we have to think. Also consider that there is still no comprehensive theory of consciousness, so Dennett's theories are just that THEORIES. When Dennett wrote his book, Consciousness Explained, he lost my respect and the respect of most philosophers. Why? Because he disregarded a great deal of what is accepted to be consciousness, which is why some philosophers have dubbed his book, Consciousness Ignored or Consciousness Denied. If Dennett had named his book, Consciousness in the Brain Explained, he could have retained some credibility, but he didn't. Because he didn't, his theory may explain a small portion of consciousness, as it relates to the brain, but like all of the theories before his, he assumed his portion was the whole. Consciousness is a vast and complex subject.

You can go to Wiki, look up his book, and get an overview of the above opinion. Also check out Chalmer's book, the Hard Problem of Consciousness, which was written in response to Dennett's book.

 

On ‎9‎/‎11‎/‎2017 at 6:46 PM, iNow said:

Having read and listened to Dennett speak, I didn't sense this at all and find this assertion highly suspect. Please support that second part, preferably with direct quotes shared in context. 

Think. If Dennett sees consciousness as an illusion created by the brain, then all life without a brain is not conscious. If humans have the most advanced and complex brain, which most people think we do, then doesn't that put humans at the "pinnacle" of consciousness -- exactly what you accused me of? These are two main reasons why philosophers do not admire his theory.

 

Quote

The challenge here is the science disagrees with you. You seem rather emotional and married to some speculative notion... a gut feeling... and seem to be choosing to disregard all we've learned in recent decades.

 Bullshit. I have spent most of this thread trying to teach science.  Until I clearly stated that both, a neurologist and a microbiologist, explained that all life is sentient, most people assumed that I did not know what I was talking about; many still doubt it and I suspect that includes you. So who is trying to ignore the science? Unless people can accept what SCIENCE tells us about life, there is no hope of doing any philosophy on evolution, and I have been working on teaching science for five pages!!!

You seem to think that I am an emotional moron. Since I know that is not true, I have to wonder where the idea came from. Have you ever heard of projecting? It is studied by psychology, another science.

 

Quote

It really boils down (distills down?) to chemistry and patterns of electricity. Change either in even very subtle ways and you immediately  change both awareness and consciousness. Despite your protestations, both appear very much to be illusions continually crafted by what's happening within and around us, what we've eaten, how tired we are, where we find ourselves, which parts are firing and which are dormant. 

If you really want to boil it down, then physics tells us that everything is really particles and waves, so it is all illusion. Problem solved. So we can close down Science, Philosophy, and even Religion because we have our answers.

 

Quote

Acknowledging that chemistry drives us and awareness/consciousness/self appear to be illusions continually crafted in no way changes our experience of the world. 

Well, if I ever get to the point of this thread, I hope you will remember that. It is my argument that chemistry is also what drives and guides evolution.

 

Quote

It just allows us to be more accurate and more precise while describing and discussing it.

It also allows us to dismiss the parts of it that we do not wish to deal with -- like religion. Dennett's revulsion of religion is almost manic. It also allows vegans to eat with impunity because only life with a brain is sentient. It is bullshit, of course, but it is delivered by a man with a long beard, a grave and solemn face, who looks like a wise philosopher should. (chuckle chuckle)

 

If you want to identify what is life, it is easy, just kill it. It will lose it's consciousness and die. Life has it's own form of entropy, we call it death.

Gee

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