Evolution and humans: big brain size or use (Evolution)

by dhw, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 14:05 (2474 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: And so consciousness cannot simply be a mechanism: it is the seat of all the attributes that make us ourselves - our memories, emotions, ideas etc. – and if you believe in free will, it must also be the decision-maker. So when you say “we are free etc.” what is this “we”? It can’t be the brain, if “we” survive the death of the brain. The implication of this whole scenario is that the brain provides information to consciousness, and then obeys the instructions of consciousness, and “we” are our consciousness with all the above information contained in it. In other words, the exact opposite of your opening statement: consciousness “employs” the brain and not the other way round.

DAVID: Consciousness allows us to form a sense of self. That is obvious. We use consciousness. It doesn't dictate to us. We dictate to ourselves. The brain stores memories which consciousness allows us to create. A brain in a jar is not conscious. You are missing the back and forth between the human and his brain. They are a team. The baby experiences and is able to learn from them as he lives infancy and form opinions, ideas, personality. Consciousness allows all of this activity and its coalescence as self.

You have left out the crucial introduction to what I wrote above: “I must stress again that I am not taking sides in the materialism versus dualism debate. I am only trying to understand your own approach. NDE patients tell us that our consciousness survives the death of the brain, but during these experiences they are themselves – they retain all the information that makes them individual.” In YOUR scenario (not mine, as I remain neutral) based on NDEs, “we” (the self) ARE our consciousness. There is no brain or body, no more "back and forth". And so if consciousness (the self) can exist independently of the brain, the “back and forth” in our lifetime can only consist in the brain providing consciousness with information, and consciousness then instructing the brain to control the rest of the body. Only if you reject the NDE scenario in which “we” (the self) exist as pure consciousness can you claim that the brain uses “us”/consciousness.

dhw: This has implications for the problem of which came first: brain enlargement allowing function, or function enlarging the brain, but let’s go one step at a time.
DAVID: All of the evidence from studies of our ancestor fossils is brain enlargement allows certain levels of anthropologic activity. Each enlargement allowed more complex activity. 200,000 years ago sapiens activity was not what it is today, but the brain had arrived!

The evidence shows that enlargement accompanied certain levels of activity. It cannot possibly tell us which came first: the enlargement allowing the activity or the need for the activity causing the enlargement. That is the big debate.

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