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Kastrup responds to Coyne: No, consciousness CANNOT be just a byproduct

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Philosopher Bernardo Kastrup responds to biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness could be a mere by-product of a useful evolved trait.

In response to Biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness is merely a byproduct of a useful evolved trait, computer engineer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup points out that consciousness, which requires vast organized, underlying complexity, is one of the most difficult unsolved problems in science. It cannot be a mere accidental byproduct of something else.

Kastrup: No, consciousness cannot be just a byproduct” at Mind Matters News

Kastrup, as readers will see, hasn’t a whole lot of patience with Coyne. One can only wonder why. 😉

Leisurely but up-to-date reading on the consciousness clash:

Did consciousness evolve?: A Darwinist responds. Jerry Coyne argues that consciousness is a mere byproduct of useful traits that are naturally selected. But wait… The critical problem that consciousness poses for Darwinian evolution is that there is no survival advantage for subjective first-person existence over objective third-person existence.

Bernardo Kastrup: Consciousness cannot have evolved. How many joules of consciousness would make you a human instead of a chimpanzee? How many more joules of consciousness would make you a genius? Computer scientist and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup argues that evolution deals with things that can be measured quantitatively but consciousness cannot be quantified. 

Why would philosophers deny that consciousness is real? Because, says computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup, the materialism they are committed to makes no sense and that’s the best they can do.

Scientific American explores panpsychism… respectfully. This is a major change. At one time, a science mag would merely ridicule the idea of a conscious universe. Note: Make no mistake, panpsychism—as Goff elucidates it—is a purely naturalist view (“nothing supernatural or spiritual”). But, unlike the village atheist, he goes on to ask, but then what IS nature? Matter is all there is? But what IS matter? It turns out, no one really knows.

and

Panpsychism: You are conscious but so is your coffee mug. Or maybe not? A primer on varieties of panpsychism.

26 Replies to “Kastrup responds to Coyne: No, consciousness CANNOT be just a byproduct

  1. 1
    Truthfreedom says:

    Bernardo Kastrup refers to coyne as the: “dim-witted biologist”. I totally agree 🙂

    He also says something about coyne’s illiteracy (philosophically speaking, of course):

    “This is one of those embarrassing passages in which Jerry Berry unwittingly makes painfully clear to the whole world the depths of his philosophical ignorance”.

    Worth every paragraph.
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.

    Thanks “News”!

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    I doubt that a computer engineer is any better qualified than a biologist to comment on philosophy and Kastrup’s ad hominem remarks about Coyne certainly do him no credit. All he is saying essentially is that we have no real idea of how consciousness could have arisen through materialistic processes (agree) therefore design (disagree). Kastrup apparently has no explanation for the close correlation between consciousness and the physical brain. All he appears to offer is a somewhat vague notion of cosmic consciousness in which we are all somehow embedded. How that cosmic consciousness arose remains as much a mystery as the nature of consciousness itself.

  3. 3
    Truthfreedom says:

    @2 Seversky

    I doubt that a computer engineer is any better qualified than a biologist to comment on philosophy…

    Reading before commenting is a mark of wisdom.
    Regarding Bernardo Kastrup:

    “I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy (ontology, philosophy of mind) and another Ph.D. in computer engineering (reconfigurable computing, artificial intelligence). I’ve worked as a scientist in some of the world’s foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir Effect” of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). I’ve authored many academic papers and books on philosophy and science, being a regular contributor to ‘Scientific American’ and the ‘Institute of Art and Ideas”.

    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.

  4. 4
    Eugene says:

    > How many joules of consciousness would make you a human instead of a chimpanzee?
    It is not the extra joules of consciousness which make you a human (as most /all animals are very likely perfectly conscious), it is the ability to do abstract reasoning and math. This, and a small amount of a built-in moral code.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, it is relevant to note that Kastrup is a double PhD:

    My work has been leading the modern renaissance of metaphysical idealism, the notion that reality is essentially mental. I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy (ontology, philosophy of mind) and another Ph.D. in computer engineering (reconfigurable computing, artificial intelligence).

    Plainly, his technical work supports his life passion as an independent scholar in philosophy. That, historically, has been the dominant pattern. KF

    PS: I of course dislike an ad hominem laced argument, especially resort to silly namecalling. That said, it is fair to note that evolutionary materialistic scientism is inherently unable to account for mind in general not just consciousness — as, there are severe limits to what computational substrates can do [and so both PhD’s are relevant] — but it uses the prestige of the lab coat to lock out what succeeds. Notice, Reppert:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A [–> notice, state of a wetware, electrochemically operated computational substrate], which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief [–> concious, perceptual state or disposition] that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

  6. 6
    Bob O'H says:

    Scrap! Scrap! Scrap! Scrap!

  7. 7
    Bob O'H says:

    Oh, sorry. Kastrup’s post was giving me flashbacks to the playground at junior school.

  8. 8
    Truthfreedom says:

    @7 Bob O’H

    Oh, sorry. Kastrup’s post was giving me flashbacks to the playground at junior school.

    As if you had left kindergarten.
    Would you be so kind to provide a useful comment on Bernardo’s Kastrup post? (The one you certainly did not read)?
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.
    Something related to evolution and consciousness would be appreciated.
    Oh wait. Reading is boring, we know it…

  9. 9
    Truthfreedom says:

    @6 Bob O’H:

    Scrap! Scrap! Scrap! Scrap!

    The peacock shows its tail and the materialist communicates his intelligence.

    @ Kairosfocus (regarding the ad homminem): kindly note that Bernardo Kastrup explains why. Copied from his excellent article 🙂
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.

    “(Important observation: the demeaning tone of this post, including the mildly disparaging use of a nickname, has been carefully studied—sometimes down to specific sentence structures—to exactly match the tone with which Jerry Coyne writes about other people and their respective ideas, including myself. If anything, this post falls short of matching Coyne’s unchecked callousness. If you think my tone goes too far, then please remember that this is precisely my point. My deliberate choice to—contrary to my own natural proclivities—mirror the tone of militant materialists and atheists, such as Coyne, is motivated by reasons discussed here. Beyond all these stylistic considerations, however, the substance of my arguments above should speak for itself).”

  10. 10
    Bob O'H says:

    TF – It’s clear that Kastrup hasn’t read Coyne very carefully. Karstrup writes

    To begin with, he is implicitly but unambiguously acknowledging my point that consciousness, under physicalism, doesn’t perform any function; it’s useless (thank you for admitting to this, Jerry Berry, as this is the critical point).

    Only Coyne doesn’t say this. He points out that there could be several explanations for the evolution of consciousness, and not all of them are direct selection (he’s making the point that Kastrup doesn’t understand what evolution is). later in his post Coyne writes

    I have no idea whether consciousness is a direct product of natural selection or a byproduct of selection on features like our brain. It could be a direct adaptation or it could be a spandrel.

    So Kastrup wasted half of his post arguing against a point Coyne didn’t make.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    … computer engineer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup points out that consciousness, which requires vast organized, underlying complexity, is one of the most difficult unsolved problems in science. It cannot be a mere accidental byproduct of something else.

    So, having made the unwarranted leap from the fact that we don’t yet have a naturalistic account of consciousness to the inference that we never will what does Kastrup offer as an alternative?

    His thesis can be summarized as follows: There is only cosmic consciousness.
    We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated ‘alters.

    What does that even mean? What is a “dissociated alter”? Is he just proposing another variant of the claim that reality is nothing more than a Matrix-like simulation? In what way is it any better than materialism/naturalism, other than being more appealing to those of a spiritualistic bent?

  12. 12
    Truthfreedom says:

    @10 Bob O’H

    It’s clear that Kastrup hasn’t read Coyne very carefully.

    I really doubt it.

    The problem here is that coyne does not have a clue (he himself acknowledges it!):

    I have no idea whether consciousness is a direct product of natural selection or a byproduct of selection on features like our brain. It could be a direct adaptation or it could be a spandrel.

    – Or it could be random genetic drift.
    – Or it could be a fairy that sprinkled her magical fairy dust…

    Why does coyne (or any other materialist) try to lecture Bernardo Kastrup when he does not know what he is talking about?
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.
    Do not evolutionists have “all answers”?

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    Seversky – I think Kastrup rejects dualism (as, I think, Coyne does too), but rather than insisting everything is matter, I think he’s claiming that everything is mind. He writes in his response to Coyne:

    To an idealist like me, there is no brain outside and independent of mind. Instead, the ‘material’ brain is merely the extrinsic appearance, in some mind, of the inner mentation of (some other) mind.

  14. 14
    Bob O'H says:

    TF – Each to their own, but I’m happier with people who will admit their ignorance rather than pretend to know all the answers.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    “I’m happier with people who will admit their ignorance rather than pretend to know all the answers.”

    But alas, Coyne is ignorant of his profound level of ignorance:

    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental – February 14, 2020
    Excerpt: Jerry Coyne just isn’t a serious participant in any discussion regarding the nature of mind and reality. As Edward Feser put it, everything the man writes on philosophy and religion is an “omnibus of fallacies.” It doesn’t take Coyne long to run the entire gamut of faulty logic; it’s quite remarkable. I suspect he is just too dim-witted in regard to philosophy to realize how dim-witted he is in regard to philosophy (the Dunning–Kruger effect).
    https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2020/02/dim-witted-biologist-consciousness-is.html?m=1

  16. 16
    Truthfreedom says:

    You beat me to it, Bornagain77 🙂
    @14 Bob O’H

    Each to their own, but I’m happier with people who will admit their ignorance rather than pretend to know all the answers.

    coyne is a fool but he knows (and all materialists know) that consciousness is slippery terrain.
    He should stick to his awful blog. Philosophy is out of his league. What an ignorant ape-man.
    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental.

  17. 17
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    He points out that there could be several explanations for the evolution of consciousness,…

    Until he finds the evidence to support them, he doesn’t have anything. As of today Coyne doesn’t have anything to explain the existence of brains. He can’t even account for the existence of eukaryotes. And he has to be GIVEN starting populations of prokaryotes.

    Coyne’s premises are completely devoid of anything but Coyne’s opinions.

  18. 18
    Bob O'H says:

    ba77 @ 15 – yes, yes. Keep up. That’s the very piece we’ve been discussing.

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    In response to the fact that Coyne “is just too dim-witted in regard to philosophy to realize how dim-witted he is”,,,

    Dim-witted biologist: consciousness is accidental – February 14, 2020
    Excerpt: Jerry Coyne just isn’t a serious participant in any discussion regarding the nature of mind and reality. As Edward Feser put it, everything the man writes on philosophy and religion is an “omnibus of fallacies.” It doesn’t take Coyne long to run the entire gamut of faulty logic; it’s quite remarkable. I suspect he is just too dim-witted in regard to philosophy to realize how dim-witted he is in regard to philosophy (the Dunning–Kruger effect).
    https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2020/02/dim-witted-biologist-consciousness-is.html?m=1

    In response to that fact, Bob (and weave) O’Hara states,,,

    “yes, yes. Keep up. That’s the very piece we’ve been discussing.”

    Well Bob (and weave), I do try to keep up with just how dim-witted Jerry Coyne can be, but it is a pretty dog-gone hard job to do. And I just don’t have enough time or money to earn a PhD in evolutionary biology in order to become as dim-witted as Coyne apparently is.

    As J. Budziszewski noted, “there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit.”

    “Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit.”
    – J. Budziszewski
    https://randalrauser.com/2017/12/forms-stupidity-one-must-highly-intelligent-educated-commit/

    For instance of ‘highly educated stupidity’, it does not take a college degree to instantly recognize that this following statement by Coyne is ‘self-refuting’ in the most fundamental way possible

    Eagleton on Baggini on free will
    Excerpt: “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/eagleton-on-baggini-on-free-will/

    Nor does it take a college degree to see the insanity of this following statement by Coyne:

    “You are robots made out of meat. Which is what I am going to try to convince you of today”
    Jerry Coyne – No, You’re Not a Robot Made Out of Meat (Science Uprising 02) – video
    https://youtu.be/rQo6SWjwQIk?list=PLR8eQzfCOiS1OmYcqv_yQSpje4p7rAE7-&t=20

    Or how about this beauty of a self-refuting statement by Coyne?

    THE ILLUSION OF FREE WILL – Sam Harris – 2012
    Excerpt: “Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.”
    – Jerry Coyne
    https://samharris.org/the-illusion-of-free-will/

    I pretty much gave up trying to keep up with just how dim-witted Coyne can be after those self-defeating statements by Coyne, but please Bob (and weave) if you know of any other statements that so clearly demonstrate Coyne’s ‘dim-wittedness’ do let me know so I can try to catch up. 🙂

    Of supplemental note to ‘highly educated stupidity’, Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, for an audience full of academics at a college, a ‘miracle’ simply by raising his arm,,

    The Intersection of Science and Religion – Craig Hazen, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....qlE#t=746s

  20. 20
    Tom Robbins says:

    Coyne is one of the most dogmatic thinkers…. Dogma and scientific inquiry, like Dogma and Spiritual inquiry, do not mix. Coyne does not read critiques, he simply has a certain very lazy worldview, and then responds the same was, over and over again. A dogmatic man picked a bad field as a dogmatic man is beyond discovery.. His responses are so predictable, it seems like one long diatribe not individual responses…

  21. 21
    Axel says:

    Coyne must view consciousness as a kind of detritus, an effluent even ; the priceless payload being the solid matter ! Block-head ! Though I’m sure Ian Dury and his band would have had a lot more ‘savvy’.

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  25. 25
    BobRyan says:

    Other than man, which animals are philosophical as part of their nature? Philosophy cannot be found in the natural world and has not real purpose for materialists. It’s something that should not exist, since it does not exist in nature. If man has the capability to be philosophical, then man cannot evolve from animals. Either philosophy is nothing more than an illusion and meaningless regardless of the source, or man is unique.

  26. 26
    Truthfreedom says:

    @25 BobRyan:

    Either philosophy is nothing more than an illusion and meaningless regardless of the source, or man is unique.

    The problem here is that:
    – You have to use philosophical arguments to demonstrate that “philosophy is an illusion “.
    – Yes, you have to use an “irreal tool” to “dispel itself”! 🙂
    No problem for our materialist friends, of course, since they are walking contradictions and are always drowning in irrationality.

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