What is Evolution For?
Again With The Evolution Thing And Then I Veer Way Off Course And..Oh Great The Simulation Again, Here We Go
As I have been thinking and writing about evolution a good bit recently, I have been extra sensitive to encounters with the concept in other publications that I typically read. Yesterday I came across and article (linked below) that touched on evolution as a way to make a point about a seemingly unrelated topic, human consciousness and how to talk about it with others. Specifically the author, Dr. Karl Fiston, a psychiatrist and physicist at University College London argues that by accepting the mind as a thing cognitive scientists and philosophers fundamentally misunderstand its nature and are led astray. In other words, when we consider consciousness as a thing we are tempted to ask questions that presuppose it’s existence can be explained by the “attributes it has or the purpose it fulfills”.
Consciousness is not a thing, but a process of inference - Karl Friston | Aeon Essays
I have a confession. As a physicist and psychiatrist, I find it difficult to engage with conversations about…
He suggests that a better alternative is to ask what sort of processes give rise to the notion (or the illusion) that things exist at all. He then clarifies and distills his position which goes on to become, consciousness is best thought of as a “process to be understood, not as a thing to be defined.” This can be reworded to say “consciousness is nothing more and nothing less than a natural process such as evolution or the weather.”
Did you catch that? Maybe you were skimming, looking for the good parts and missed it, he said “……..evolution and the weather.” Incidentally a heads up, this is the good part. He continues with the evolution theme by saying, “…….. to illustrate the notion of consciousness as a process…replace the word ‘consciousness’ with ‘evolution’ — and see if the question still makes sense. For example, the question What is consciousness for? becomes What is evolution for? (Pretty sweet how I worked the title of the post in right there wasn’t it? I’m good like that) Scientifically speaking, of course, we know that evolution is not for anything. It doesn’t perform a function or have reasons for doing what it does — it’s an unfolding process that can be understood only on its own terms. Since we are all the product of evolution, the same would seem to hold for consciousness and the self.”
With respect to Dr. Fiston it is always a bad idea to presume to speak for science. Whenever you see a sentence that begins with the words scientifically speaking brace yourself for something that is most likely the writer’s opinion. Usually it is an opinion for which the author has little actual evidence. It is sort of like the intellectual version of the bait and switch. Suggest to the unsuspecting reader that your opinion is ‘scientifically’ proven (the bait), and then only slowly reveal over the course of the piece that what you originally posit as science is really only educated guess or intellectually appealing opinion (the switch).
I will leave my criticisms of the work at that as I am not interested in writing a critique of a well intentioned though poorly conceived and executed article. Rather instead I want to more closely examine the question posed in the article and repeated in my chosen title, what is evolution for. In other words, what is the purpose of evolution? More to the point, is there a purpose, and if the answer is no or if it is yes, what does that mean? Dr. Fiston quickly dismisses the question with a sweep of his“scientifically speaking” wand. Of course it is a silly question to ask that question because “scientifically speaking” “of course” (of course he would have to also say of course) evolution is not for anything, it has no purpose. Dr. Fiston would most likely say it does not have a purpose because, as a natural process, it cannot have a purpose, if one were to suggest it does have a purpose then one is on a fast track down the slippery slope to God. As much as it pains me to admit, in this at least, Fisty McFist and I are in agreement, more often than not the big questions of purpose (e.g. us being here, of the universe existing, of suffering, etc.) end up with the ultimate purposer, I’m talking about the big man, the top dog, captain king of the universe, G-o-d, God. It really sucks when that happens because the conversation typically ends with your Godsters on one side of the argument and your devil worshipers (I kid) on the other. Once the two sides have formed it’s all over from a reasonable, rationale conversation point of view. Out come the raised voices, then the stones, then the knives, then the guns, and I run full speed for the exit.
What if there were another way, another option for an answer to the question of purpose? The answer would leave both the Godsters and the Satanistas unhappy but not with each other for once. There is only one way out of this seeming butt ass morass, bring in the Simulators. Our good friends, the most powerful and wise, but not yet God beings who created the universe and everything in it, including ourselves. In fact, at this very moment, they are monitoring everything that each of us says and does, or they don’t never or no longer gave/give a shit and abandoned us to the simulation aeons ago. For the God people it is a bit of a let down to think that they were created by someone/thing other than God and the Atheistic are kicking themselves because they wonder if science is really just a load of crap since all it is doing is “discovering” or “proving” things that ultimately are not real, or at least not “really” real. However, the religious can find comfort in the thought that it was God (it must have been) that created the simulators who then created us. So, in a sense, we were still created by God. The atheists get to feel superior because they can reasonably argue that it was science and the rational that allowed these simulators to gain the intellectual chops and the power to create us and our simulation. It could be viewed as the ultimate vindication of the scientific method.
What happened to evolution you ask? Damn good question, I got massively sidetracked. Fuck the simulation hypothesis. I am sick of talking about it and thinking about it. I’m gonna post this POS and tackle this question again in a better way, a way that doesn’t suck, at another time. I need to change the title now, dammit. Oh well. Enjoy!