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Review of Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

I’ve long wanted an authoritative but readable account of how consciousness is thought about in a biological context, to compare my own thinking to. Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. His “Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind” is what I wanted. He is the needed combination of academic philosopher and field worker; he illustrates essays on creatures and their minds ranging from microbes to humans with accounts of scuba diving amongst such creatures. In “Metazoa” I trust I come across all the ideas common in thinking about consciousness in a biological context.

My conclusion: those ideas are absurdly inadequate to the task. If we’re confused about consciousness that’s largely because we lack concepts we need for understanding it. More...

Testing purely physical mechanisms of evolution

I see the past four centuries as having introduced us to two major scientific revolutions. However, I see the first of these revolutions, involving the physical sciences, having distracted us from exploring the second, involving how we evolved, holding us back from extracting wisdom from it. How might we get access to that wisdom? More..

Re-calculating population statistics

I've come up with a critique of neo-Darwinism that, unusually for me, I express numerically. Consider a species of elephants consisting of an average of one million inter-breeding individuals evolving into a new species over the course of one million years. More...

Reasonable origins of Doubt

My doubts about modern science originate in three observations... From these observations I conclude that physical and evolutionary processes are distinct and different in nature yet equally real, neither is spiritual or supernatural. Yet despite having different natures they can interact to support and express conscious experiences. And, by interacting, they drive evolution. More...

Ontological play

Ontology: that’s arguments about what the world consists of. Here we ask questions like, is there just matter? Or is there both matter and mind? I like to compare “ontologies” in terms of kinds of processes. Are there only physical and chemical processes. Or are there in addition other kinds processes, found only in living creatures, that to some extent can defy the laws of physics.

Can we tell which of these worlds we actually live in? Not absolutely, it’s a matter of opinion, of personal judgment. More...

There's matter. And there's genomes.

There's this site, for coming up with new theories of evolution. And there's my own pet theory. Please distinguish between the two.

My own pet theory is reducing to this: in the context of a contemporary human lifetime, there are two kinds of stuff. There's non-living matter. And there are genomes and the creatures they make and manage. Matter is as science reports it: describable in mathmatical terms, inert and predictable. Genomes are matter that's evolved to be conscious and intelligent. Living creatures they can make conscious and intelligent too. Consciousness and intelligence defy analysis in terms of science and maths. They can be studied only through intuition--a combination of consciousness and intelligence (see my review of Bergson).

Where do angels and demons lie? In the genome. Where do good and evil lie? In the genome. Where is the experience of orgasm specified? In the genome. Where do religions originate? In the genome. Where can we look for meaning? In the genome.

In the context of a contemporary human lifetime matter is well enough understood. What we most need to learn about is how consciousness and intelligence evolved. That is where almost all mystery and romance lie. That is what we most need to approach through new institutions of study and appreciation.