Sunday, 26 June 2011

Conor Cunningham, consciousness, and evolution

Over at the ABC site, Conor Cunningham discusses the ultra-Darwinism of Dawkins and others, while Rowan Williams reviews Cunningham's new book, Darwin's Pious Idea. Williams writes:

We need to recognise that, if intelligible structure, developing and ordered complexity, is the story we have to tell, if the point of genes is to carry information, then the reality of the universe as we know it is suffused with the possibility of mind. Matter itself is pregnant with meanings, we might say – in the sense that the complexification of matter over the ages ends up in the phenomenon of consciousness.... If the nature of a gene is to carry a message, it is the nature of the recipient vehicle in a new generation to be able to "understand" it. To adapt a famous remark about one mythological cosmology, it's mind all the way down. Intelligence as we define it entails self-consciousness, the first-person perspective; but something seriously analogous to intelligence has to be presupposed in matter for the entire system of transmitted patterns and "instructions" to be possible.

At least some physicists have argued that it is more true to say that matter is a property of consciousness than the other way around – echoing the ancient philosophical dictum that the body is "in" the soul rather than the soul in the body.

6 Comments:

Adrian Woods said...

"something seriously analogous to intelligence has to be presupposed in matter for the entire system of transmitted patterns and "instructions" to be possible."
I'm thinking he overstates his case here. I see no reason why it Must be presupposed for it to be possible.

JKnott said...

Ben,

This statement of Williams seems inherently metaphysical. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Pamela said...

"If the nature of a gene is to carry a message, it is the nature of the recipient vehicle in a new generation to "understand" it."
Is this about empathy? You know, when there is decreased binding of neurotransmitters to one of the serotonin receptors. Or underactivity in the orbital frontal cortex and in the temporal cortex.

Anonymous said...

Ergo, the black plague---a sign of the Almighty's ever-abiding Wuv

Gorazd Andrejc said...

What Williams espouses is a beautiful Christian animism. Mind is "all the way down".

Anonymous said...

I find Williams and Cunningham equally intelligent and, sadly, equally incoherent.

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