The evolution of consciousness might seem surprising, but more than that, is it even possible? In a new podcast for Mind Matters, now shared at ID the Future, neuroscientist Michael Egnor conducts a fascinating interview with philosopher and computer scientist Bernard Kastrup, who answers in the negative. Assuming a materialist understanding of evolution, as opposed to what Dr. Egnor calls “intelligent design evolution” (interesting formulation), it’s impossible to see how an immaterial phenomenon — consciousness — could bootstrap itself into existence. Something immaterial can’t have an effect on the material realm, presumably, so how would it be selected as advantageous by Darwinian natural selection, which operates only in the material world?
Moreover, as Kastrup and Egnor ask, if consciousness is an emergent property of the physical realm — the brain — then what called forth this organ with its fantastic complexity into existence when the immaterial mind did not yet exist such that it could make use of the brain and cause, again, any reproductive advantage? It’s a subtle conversation, enlivened by Egnor’s and Kastrup’s differing perspectives on the nature of the purposefulness behind the universe. While Dr. Egnor sees the purpose as being an intelligent one, Kastrup argues for an instinctive agent, with desire but not necessarily a plan. Very interesting! Download the podcast or listen to it here.