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Michael Egnor: Did consciousness evolve to help us “find love”?


He continues to look critically at yet another theory of the evolution of consciousness, this one by neuroscientist Michael Graziano:

If consciousness (and specifically man’s capacity for reason) evolved by natural selection, then the trait selected would necessarily lead to success in reproducing oneself. The evolutionary purpose of consciousness would be, so to speak, to rut more successfully. But if the purpose of consciousness is to rut, then any correlation between consciousness and truth about the natural world would be coincidental to effectiveness in the mating game.

In a world where consciousness can only evolve as a mating strategy, a correspondence between consciousness and discernment of truth would be a spandrel—mere icing on the cake.

How tight a link might we expect between reproductive success and the contemplation of truth? Not a lot, it would seem, if the experience of philosophy majors on the dating scene is any measure. “Hey, baby—wanna’ read some Nietzsche with me?” is considerably less effective as a dating strategy than “Hey baby—wanna… ?” Well, you get the point.

Michael Egnor, “Did consciousness evolve to find love?” at Mind Matters News

Here are neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s two earlier articles on Michael Graziano’s approach to consciousness:

Neuroscientist Michael Graziano should meet the p-zombie. A p-zombie (a philosopher’s thought experiment) behaves exactly like a human being but has no first-person (subjective) experience. The meat robot violates no physical principles. Yet we KNOW we are not p-zombies. Think what that means.


Did consciousness “evolve”? One neuroscientist doesn’t seem to understand the problems the idea raises. Darwinian evolution must select physical attributes. If consciousness evolved as a mere byproduct of physical brain processes, it is powerless in itself. Thus Graziano’s theories of consciousness are themselves mindless accidents.

And here is a selection of Dr. Egnor’s articles on consciousness:

In one sense, consciousness IS an illusion. We have no knowledge of the processes of our consciousness, only of the objects of its attention, whether they are physical, emotional, or abstract

Does Your Brain Construct Your Conscious Reality? Part I A reply to computational neuroscientist Anil Seth’s recent TED talk


Does Your Brain Construct Your Conscious Reality? Part II In a word, no. Your brain doesn’t “think”; YOU think, using your brain

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Well, I guess some people need an idea to play with on a dull afternoon. Consciousness and Love were INSTALLED in the first Human production models. Guys think girls are cute and soft and cuddly. Moms think babies are cute and soft and cuddly. It's ALWAYS been that way. In many lesser species of beasts, offspring are born ready to take on the world. In humans, babies can't even WALK until they're a year old. But from birth babies will stare into another human's eyes and grab his or her finger with the patented Monkey Grip hands that come standard on all models. And of course we're Pack animals. We need reinforcement from the company of other humans. Life is a team sport for us. The early Christian hermits BECAME hermits because forsaking human contact was the most precious thing they could GIVE UP as penance for their sins. But back to the original question: there wasn't any need for Consciousness to "evolve". Humans had it from our beginning. Baboons, on the other hand, ain't got it, and they ain't gonna get it. vmahuna

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