Computer engineer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup, who has been published in Scientific American, thinks it can’t. As noted at Mind Matters News, for one thing, it cannot be understood in the quantitative terms essential to materialism and theories of evolution deal in material things
However, our phenomenal consciousness is eminently qualitative, not quantitative. There is something it feels like to see the colour red, which is not captured by merely noting the frequency of red light. If we were to tell Helen Keller that red is an oscillation of approximately 4.3*1014 cycles per second, she would still not know what it feels like to see red. Analogously, what it feels like to listen to a Vivaldi sonata cannot be conveyed to a person born deaf, even if we show to the person the sonata’s complete power spectrum. Experiences are felt qualities—which philosophers and neuroscientists call ‘qualia’—not fully describable by abstract quantities.“Bernardo Kastrup: Consciousness cannot have evolved” at Mind Matters News
Wow. This will be interesting to watch. Remember when AI pioneer David Gelernter bid Darwin goodbye? So far as we know, nothing bad happened to Gelernter. If nothing awful happens to Kastrup, we might have more reasonable discussions in the future of what consciousness even is.
Note: Hat tip to the reader who recognizes the literary reference in the title.
Further reading on disputes about consciousness:
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
Panpsychism: You are conscious but so is your coffee mug Materialists have a solution to the problem of consciousness, and it may startle you
Why some scientists believe the universe is conscious