The Evolution of Human Consciousness

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The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 10th, 2018, 7:06 pm 

I have been researching and developing a set of related theses that focus on the interaction and conflicts between human individuals and human society. Much of the basis of the work derives from archaeologcal findings as well as kinship studies of human and primates, and what might be called speculative sociology - the future of sociolology - as derived from my earlier conclusions.

The work falls into two broad parts which can be considered chronologically - the past and the future. The core subject matter in the work is on human consciousness, how and when it developed and its links to what we perceive as reality, culture, civilization and society - how there terms and concepts are related through and to the consciousness-forming process.

The conceptual material is like a three-dimensional model in that there are fixed relationships in time and space but there are many ways to explain it. So how I will seek to explain it here is simply one of those paths, and as I stated above, this path is largely ordered by chronology.

After discussing a number of the properties of consciounsess in the human context and some reference to animal consciousness and "sensate" awareness which are common to most if not all of life I make the specific comparison between the consciousness of a modern Chimpanzee and a modern Homo Sapien and note the highly significant nature of the differences between the two, despite the genetic closeness. Our civilization is, in effect a major portiopn of the evidence of the product of the difference. Also our position at having eliminated our predators and having conquered all habitats, and having opened the door to conceptual thinking.

I then pose this question: If we have a different consciousness from the Chimpanzee now and assume that 6-7 million years ago we did not - as we were both the same species, then we can conclude that our consciousness emerged during this 6-7 million year period. We can then list the major developments in our evolution over that time and try to determine which of them have had some link to the emergence of our consciousness. As on overlay we can also look at the development of the human brain within this period.

What stands out, is that although there are a number of interesting links, themajority of the evidence - as for exampe in our civlization - does not appear until around 11,000 years ago and some not till 3-4,000 years ago. This is surprising given our relatively long evolution. Most of it is not stricty related to our modern form of consciousness.

This at first sight tends to support some of those that have claimed that human consciousness is a fairly recent phenomenon. (Most scientists have not dealt with this topic per se).

So from the starting position that human consciousness is a relatively recent phenomenon, I go back and try to determine what prior states of mind did we have - you could call then "proto-conscious" states as we evolved away from the Chimapzees. My work to date has focussed on two prior states of mind, one going back to the period when bi-pedalism developed and the other to post the control of fire.

Much of the earlier work focusses on developments in human kinship, especially the impact of "pair-bonding" and ow that re-arranged our proto-consciousness from wht it had been as a Chimpanzee.
The second later phase focusses on the beginnings of social processes, ritualistic learning and performing and the emergence of personal expression - acting, singing, dancing, group remembering of people and events, spiritual development, sports competition.

One of the conclusions that arise from this work is that our modern human consciousness has gievn us the unique negative knowledge of our individual deaths - The Garden of Eden scene portrays this elegantly in the awareness of being naked. It is a terrible burden and I ask the question why it evolved and have concluded that we as individuals did not necessarily need it - as no other animal has it -but our evolving human society did require it. Our society needs conscious individuals. That is the sacrifice it demands. But it gives us religion to help assuage the knowledge of death.

I go on to look at how religion and science have been going separate ways and how science has still not provided the means of coping with our death - apart from looking fro eternal life or durgs that change our perception.

This ends the past setion of the work and from here I go on to look at how societies compete in an evolutionary sense - a question that is so important yet one rarely asked - except in the military or economic sense. The work seems to be heading for an ending with the topic of a one world society which also touches on the "hive mind" and other such concepts.

That is it. it is large and rambling but I believe is really a single story. I have researched much of it but need help to put it into a publishable form. I think that the various subjects could draw in many co-researchers and that it coud be deiveded up into a large project with many distinct parts.

I am all ears.....
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby Dave_C on June 11th, 2018, 9:34 pm 

Hi pyth, welcome to the board. I guess what strikes me is your use of the term "consciousness". What people mean when they use that term can be many things. I like the way Chalmers breaks it up into "psychological consciousness" and "phenomenal consciousness" which equates to the easy and hard problems respectively. I've seen enough confusion over the term that I posted Chalmer's definition of phenomenal consciousness here:
viewtopic.php?f=51&t=28417

Could you take a whack at defining what consciousness means in your post? It doesn't seem like phenomenal consciousness (nor psychological consciousness) is what you're after. Some people consider 'self awareness' as a type of consciousness so they define consciousness that way. A dolphin that recognizes itself in a mirror for example, would pass the test for consciousness from that perspective but an ant or small animal that feels pain would not. That said, it doesn't seem like your use of the term fits that description very well either. It seems more like you want to define consciousness along the lines of intelligence perhaps. Other possibilities include language, tool use, or perhaps a combination of those. It might also have to do with other mental abilities. Whatever it is that makes us different is probably not best described as "consciousness"

Regardless, I'd be interested in what you come up with. I get the gist of your post. I think there's something about the evolution of humans that allowed humans to leap past other animals and I do think it has something to do with the mind and mental states. Exactly what, I have trouble myself defining. I wonder if we shouldn't be searching for what exactly those mental states are that made a difference? I have to believe there are lots of good studies out there that look at understanding when certain things occurred during human evolution including the use of language, tool use, etc... Do you have a good source showing the chronology of major human developments like that?

Thanks,
Dave.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on June 11th, 2018, 9:58 pm 

I like the pragmatic approach that consciousness evolved to increase fitness. The problem is that little consensus exists on issues such as kin selection let alone complex social structures.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 11th, 2018, 11:19 pm 

Thanks for your considered comments Dave. I appreciate your insights and will come back with some reasoned answers as soon as I can. And Wolfhnd, thanks also for your input. I will provide more details on how I see these other related topics.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on June 12th, 2018, 1:18 am 

It is an interesting question that many people have tried to address.

I'm something of a heretic on the subject as I don't see that there is necessarily a direct correlation between intelligence and consciousness. Consciousness seems to only require a memory trick. A sleep walker for example has a minimal ability to navigate the environment and even a zombie like ability to respond to questions. A sleep walker however has no memory of their navigation through the environment. A conscious person on the other hand has access to their interactions in the environment. Here we have a case where the same brain functions differently during conscious and unconscious interaction with the environment and a casual observer may not distinguish between the two states without inquisition.

Another example of how consciousness and intelligence may not directly correlate is how a highly intelligent and less intelligent person could be said to be equally conscious. It seems that the intelligent person is not more aware but is capable of processing memories to solve problems more effectively. There is some evidence in fact to suggest that most geniuses make there breakthroughs subconsciously and can be less aware of the environment than someone of lesser intelligence.

I'm too much of a pragmatist to have a deep interest in the discussion of different kinds of consciousness and prefer to simply assume that it is a question of access and different modes of calculation. I'm a fan of Daniel Dennett's oversimplification in this regard because his approach requires the least amount of speculation. The value in phenomenology seems more applicable to psychological than neurology in any practical application.

As far as when consciousness evolved the best approach from the parsimonious point of view is when it would offer a fitness advantage. My speculation is that occurs when the brain is sufficiently developed to have more resources than are required to be entirely instinctual. In other words in relatively simple brains. That follows my general rejection of the emergence hypotheses and abiding commitment to the view that we differ in degree not kind.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 12th, 2018, 1:25 am 

Wolfhnd:
Thanks for your comments. I gather that your point of view is pragmatic. Some questions don't really require answers and are therefore a waste of time or obfuscation.
I believe that I do have a real problem here and that it is important to understand, but it is my responsibility to make that case to you. So I will come back and make my case. Thanks again
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 12th, 2018, 2:18 am 

Responding here to Dave C's comments - (not sure if I should send Dave C and email or answer here?)
As a firstshot at this let me say that the Chalmer's piece, the easy and hard problem structure is something I can discuss directly, but I find all such schema are like maps. And when you try to use a map someone else made, you can only go to the places they conceived of, or more basically travel a land they have specified. And while I do not mind reading about that and discussing that. That is not where I am heading and so would rather start with a different map.

My starting point is that our species appears to have reached a point that no other species has reached and that in that respect, we are unique among all animals. As compared to where we started as a species, when we were similar to other species in a behavioral repertoire, skills and limitations, but that we seem to have broken out of or radically expanded our ecological or biological niche and have in many regards taken control of a number of important aspects of our destiny and the destiny of many other of Earth's creatures and perhaps the planet itself.

Our civilization is evidence of this difference, and I would argue, so is our sense of consciousness. And not only different in the way all animals are different from each other, but also different from all other animals. And here I see a set of related terms that both give evidence of our uniqueness and provide different dimensions of it and these are our consciousness, the sense of reality it provides, the culture which it enables and the civilization which is the one of the products of these things. An enormous amount of time could be spent in amplifying these points, but let me stick with these for now.

I then try to compare our sense of consciousness - as connected to all the other properties above - to a modern day Chimpanzee - our closest animal relation - and assume that 6-7 million years ago when we were one species, we did not possess this consciousness. The proposition is then, that we must have gained it over the last 6-7 million years. And in my first more extensive analysis I review the major artifactual inventory to see which if any items support the case for consciousness. This repeats some of what I said in the original posting.

I then come to some hypotheses about how our consciousness did emerge and try to explain several intermediate states that preceded it. This is important not only as process but because most of our preceding form of consciousness and its practices are still very much with us in daily life and include song, dance, religion, acting, contests, processions, all forms of rituallized behaviors. For me it provides a very powerful explanation of a deeper structure in human society and one that does not exist, say, in Chimp society.

After overlaying growth in brain size and showing it to be unrelated to the emergence of our consciousness and explore the idea that our consciousness developed in conjunction with the increasing complexity of our society, which, in turn developed as a function of population density. And which is why the emergence of agriculture was such a big deal - because it quadrupled the desnity of humans living in proximity, which caused a great change in society.

I then circle back by proposing that what we understand as our reality and its related consciousness is, in effect a projection of our more complex society.

Much of my research is ultimately underlain by the problem of the individual vs society and how this relationship has very drastically changed since our species emerged, generally in the direction of the individual losing out to the group. This in a way starts to echo some of the ideas of the "hive mind" and so-called "wiki processes", the wisdom of the crowds. and the work goes on to look at how socieites compete in an evolutionary sense.

So coming back to your question - defining what consciousness is, I would say that my approach to defining it is not to pull it apart and examine its pieces but rather to say that I have isolated a phenomenon and know its boundaries and connections. But to a great extent, "it" itsef can remain a black box. I am not an anatomist or physiologist. I am interested in society and the group mind, not an individual brain.

I hope this have filled in some of the blanks for you.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on June 12th, 2018, 2:49 am 

Note: just posted this without reading previous post so please address the OP’s comments rather than get bogged down in this ... “mess” ;)

Very interesting stuff. Hope you stick around.

My more focused area of study recently, although it’s been neglected, is into broader definitions of “religion” and it’s beginnings. I a not even slightly convinced that it has anything to do with “coping with death” unless we’re talking about “death” in a conceptual sense.

In the broader sense of “death” we’d basically be talking about “change”.

One of the conclusions that arise from this work is that our modern human consciousness has gievn us the unique negative knowledge of our individual deaths - The Garden of Eden scene portrays this elegantly in the awareness of being naked. It is a terrible burden and I ask the question why it evolved and have concluded that we as individuals did not necessarily need it - as no other animal has it -but our evolving human society did require it. Our society needs conscious individuals. That is the sacrifice it demands. But it gives us religion to help assuage the knowledge of death.


So, this particular conclusion I would call misguided in part. I think it is a common mistake to assume that religion came into being simply to plaster over the perceived modern problem of an existential crisis - obsession with mortality. That said we can clearly see this as part and parcel of each individual approach because by being an individual we necessarily have to severe ourselves (partially) from this or that in over to grow into the future. This is a common representation in global mythology, with the Phoenix being perhaps the most easily recognized image.

More broadly speaking the question of Consciousness suffers, in my eyes, from a lack of reasonably solid conceptual terms in order to approach a fuller and more inclusive conversation between individuals and differing fields of investigation.

More simply put “consciousness” is a term we have difficulty articulating in universal way. Maybe we shouldn’t try and instead focus on individual aspects that make up the vast reach of human experience we call “consciousness”?

I really hope to hear a lot more from you. This topic has not been done to death and it seems on this forum that an injection of fresh perspectives on the topic may re-ignite this infuriatingly difficult topic.

As for what makes humans different? Generally I would say our ability to deal with problems (“intelligence”) and our almost naive and childish capacity to explore with a fervent curiosity - even ... and this is the killer point (pun intended), even if such exploration and blind stumblings cause our demise.

Of course we could argue, and this is likely your point underneath this?, that awareness of our own demise spurrs us on to explore for a solution to mortality and/or reconcile our existence with such knowledge - but to reconcile ourselves with the knowledge of mortality need not require us to plaster over it and create some wishful thinking, nor require us to abandon all hope and fall into a fatalistic nihilism.

When it comes to more recent field of investigation to help us explore these issues things like neuroanthropology are in there infancy. We’ve barely caught up with the research it seems before another technological breakthrough opens up a whole new field of investigation. There are many interesting ideas floating around and personally I think the most dangerous area is going to reveal the most rewarding information - that is more research into substances and states that induce altered states of consciousness. More bridging of the gulf between psychological theory and neurological evidence.

It is precisely the things that modern science avoids dipping its toe into that I feel it should. Such things like aesthetics, beliefs, meaning and such. It is understandable though because if these mutate into pseudosciences (which they are likely to do) people we grow wary of science mistakenly conflating such things with the practice of science - as happens all the time with sensationalism and purposefully misconstrued data that people use to bolster their views and opinions.

I like to try and break down the issue into these amalgams of bullet points:

- Space and time
- Time and space
- Magnitude and position
- Position and magnitude
- Interaction/communication.

Those are the more “concrete” concepts that time the limelight. The more intangible parts of the story are:

- Aesthetics
- Emotion
- Imagination
- Belief
- Memory
- Art

Between these any fool can likely see the vague commo divide taught to us. That is the principle of the metaphysics and physicality.

A piece of art we can say has a field of reach both through time and space. What is learnt about beauty grows in us and is applied to the mere expectation of this or that based on expressed experiences of others and own experiences. Like if I were to describe something to you with passion and affection, some work of art, I may or may not raise your expectations and dull, or enhance, the affect it has on you. This is not a measurable effect, but it is an actual effect to some “degree”.

It is precisely within the flow of events and information, with in the means and modes of communication as interaction - which includes the positions and juxtapositioning, the clinical and habitual laying out of and mapping of the world - that the heart of what we call “consciousness” playfully evades our inquiries.

Underneath all this I am going to reveal my hand ... I belief that the original “premise” of religion, being an expression of innate “religiosity” (Which I mean as a kind of personal habit of thought and feel, a heuristic, an underlying distanced instructive pattern of aesthetic principles applied to your every action) is the “science” of conscious investigation, of consciousness.

On a more concrete foundation we could even say that consciousness came about by the means of disbelief and being brought into play. The creature which takes everything it experiences as a given can hardly be called “conscious” by my reckoning. So from this I suggest that being startled by change, and further more, being able to hold that startled reaction up to the light - to apply through memory and imagination into future possible scenarios - is the basis of “consciousness”.

Of course people we protest at such “emergent” theories, but I can then only ask them to explain away “change” by rigid demarcations. It is through such rigidity that science blossoms, but to be fooled into thinking such blossoming makes the world either black or white is merely a habit of convenience and practicality we’re not able to throw aside. That doesn’t make it a refutation of emergence, it only displays and cautious and skeptical approach toward the idea of settling for the “gist” and the “vague”. To fill the gap aethetic sensibilities take up the task and through such a passage we “feel” an emotional attachment to science because it gives us a commonality of being we can actively participate in to frame meaning (even though it offers no “meaning” other than through a task taken up for some reason - which is something I find so startlingly obvious that is blows my mind!)

Sorry if I went on too long there. Just looking forward to some fresh perspectives :)
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 12th, 2018, 4:23 am 

Thanks for the many thoughts; I hope it is OK if I browse through them and just pick up a few to come back with.

I will try to use the same framework I used for consciousness for relgion:
I assume that you would agree that in general animals do not have religion.
And that includes our closest animal relative, the Chimpanzee?
So 6-7 milllion years ago we and Chimpanzees were one species.
And I assume that we could agree that at that time that one species probably did not have religion.
So our religion then likely came to us sometime in the last 6-7 million years.
The question then becomes one of how and when did it emerge?
And to get some insight into this, we can examine the record of human artifacts over this period to see (if, and) when there are signs of humans having religion, or some indication of spiritual awareness. And I believe that there are many signs that indicate or support this. For example the control of fire 750,000 years ago, the first intentional burials, about 200,000 years ago, the appearance of paintings and sculpture around 40,000 years ago, the first possible man-made religious site - around 11,000 years ago. And then certainly by 10,000 years ago we have dedicated shrines in houses and signs of ancestor worship along with worship of bulls and perhaps the sun.
From Australian aboriginies we see "songlines" that describe maps of places, most of which had sacred meaning.

One earlier period I am interested in, inthis context is around 4 million years ago, when bipedalism developed. It appears that not much happened for a few million years, but I think that was a crucial period when we moved aaway from ape-like mating practices - promiscuous including harems - to pair-bonding. In some ways pair-bonding was momentous in the human story and probably involved the development of romantic love. These ingredients were critical for a male to protect a child and so that child could spend its first three years or more learning. It also enabled a mothers family - in one band - to have familial relations with the fathers family - who would be in another band (an ape-age practice to prevent incest. So the beginning of human learning and society was in pair-bonding and love. I would think that is a great religious notion.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on June 12th, 2018, 5:38 am 

There are a number of problems with what you’ve said above. It can be amended and expanded though if you can delineate between what you boundaries you’re working within when you say “religion” and also if you make as explicit as possible the assumptions you’re working with.

One example one be burial as an indicator of religion and religion requiring physical artifacts. Of course we work primarily from the foundation of physical evidence.

Another issue is distinguishing acts as “religious” rather than “habit” and to make explicit (as best we can) what the difference is.

I would also be cautious about “religious” views and “religious” doctrine. Sorry, badly put. By that I mean the issue of conflating “the religious institute” with “religiosity” (as I previously outlined it.)

Worship of Bulls and the Sun is merely an assumption you’ve made. Be careful to recognize the assumptions you’re making and be true to what you say by stating it as an “assumption” you’d like to explore rather than as an “indication” of some proposed fact.

The earliest indicators we have of “religions” are written down. Previously to that we are guessing, and what is more we’re looking back from our perspective now (with our biases, prejudices, and heuristic tools we’re habituated to) as current cultural understanding of religion today is synonymous with what it was back then - that is not to say there are no commonalities, but to remind ourselves of the assumptions of our world view we’re possibly imposing upon an alien world view. Science is built upon the principle of avoiding any clai to meaning for this reason, and it is why we come back to it again and again to avoid veering too far from its fruitful path.

It is for these reasons that I would be VERY careful about taking up the old “it’s merely about fear of death” attitude; regardless of how much psychological truth and comfort there is in this for some people today.

As for pair bonding and such, all apes are social, and there are many different ways for things to play out that are reactoinary to the environmental conditioning (see Sapolsky and his work on baboons for that.)

On a social level we can even say that certain societal rules take up by different groups culminated in loose “laws” and/or “religious ideas” that were continued and nurtured from generation to generation. If these loose “rules” caused turmoil then they society would either collapse, splinter or simply amend the “rules” in a paradigm shift. The underlying force behind this is humans interaction with each other, the world about us, our position in it, and our multiple ways of applying ourselves and our thoughts to each of these. Religion as we know it today is essentially constructed upon a stable cosmological view that maybe began prior to any concept of eternity. Time and how we think about it, is something we most certainly pay no heed to today in the modern world because it’s all around us and measured out in a variety of magnitudes - for primordial humans the difference between day and that day, this minute and that minute, would be trivial at best as a item of thought.

Are animals “religious”? Creatures play out certain ritual behaviors that appear meaningless. They have aesthetic sensibilities toward this or that, they have preferences. Such things see to me to be the cornerstones of how any being positions itself (consciously or not) in the cosmos.

You’d flesh out your ideas more (I believe) if you studied the development of “art”. Under some definitions I’ve seen the distinction between “art” and “religion” is blindly dissolved.

Here is something from Schiller to close out with:

... However high the flight of reason, it made sure to retain its substance; however finely and sharply it made distinctions, it cut no corners. It did pull human nature apart and projected each element, enlarged, into the wonderful world of gods; although this nature was not merely broken into fragments, but combined in different proportions, no single deity lacking humanity in its entirety. How different are we moderns! The image of the human species in each of us has been enlarged, shattered and scattered as shards, not proportioned admixtures; so that one has to go from one individual to another to reconstitute the totality of the species. One might almost say that in practice our faculties express themselves as fragments corresponding to the analytical distinctions of the psychologist; not only individual subjects but entire classes of men realize only one part of their endowments, while the remainder remain stunted, leaving hardly a dull trace of themselves.

- Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 12th, 2018, 10:05 am 

Firstly, let me thank you for spending the time to go through some of the details and offer constructive criticism on it. Your comments have triggered many thoughts and reactions on my part which I shall attempt to filter and come back to you on.
If I may start with one or two general comments on the nature of your critique. You know the terms "lumpers" and "splitters". Each has it own characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Most academics are splitters. And a good splitter can always find things to split in a lumpers thoughts. Lumpers tend to leave a lot of low hanging fruit in the effort to connect higher up conclusions. I am by nature a lumper and for that reason relish the possibilities of big connections and changes in framework. I realize that it leaves me very open to inclusion of factual errors, though I do try to avoid them and never include them intentionally. It would also be impossible for me to have deeper academic expertise in every area which my thought enterprise covers, so I know that leaves me vulnerable in some areas, but there is no alternative except to become expert in all areas - which I do not have the time left in my life to do, OR to sketch out the broad lines, to try to excite possibilities in order to attract experts to help explore these connections further.
The last point I will in this current general level comment is that I am coming to a forum for the first time with some broad ideas which I would like input on and am still at an early stage of this work, despite having spent many years on some of it. So trying to summarize a broad idea in one or two pages - ideas that have not yet been debugged - I have to "cut corners" in summarization and explaining to an unknown audience. COnversely, if it was all nailed down, it would be a published book and I would not be seeking comments.
I will come back later with some comments on your specific points. Thanks again for your valuable inputs.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on June 12th, 2018, 10:41 am 

I am glad you find an iota of my comments either vaguely useful or thought provoking.

Always nice to hear, so thank you for saying so.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 12th, 2018, 5:48 pm 

Hi Badger Jelly. Thanks again for your encouragement. As a newbie to this site and to discussion site generally, I find know what and how to communicate is somewhat daunting. So your guiding words are a great help.
A few postscripts on religion as per your comments:
I have tended to shy away from the more modern organized relgions (though I have an ambition to have a bew modern bible compiled - see my entry on the Religious forum - still no comments though.)
The aspects of religion I am interested in are what was going on prior to the emergence of the earliest great empires, say to 2,500BC. But during this early period what we call religion may be more properly referred to as spirituality. And spiritual feelings may have emerged 100,000 years ago, but more certainly around 40-50,000 years ago when the first cave paintings and sculptures appear.
But, and here is where words become difficult, I believe that in those times all knowledge tended to be different sides of the same body of experience. Killing and eating were a continuum as were weather and spirits. The landscape was composed of special places. Many actions were ritualized. Religion did not exist as a separate body of experience. We were deeply sensate, without layers/centuries of social forms and social values. I think must scholars who study religion restrict themselves only to the civilized period and I do not know how they see what came before.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby Braininvat on June 13th, 2018, 12:52 pm 

One approach might be to pare off particular conceptual problems from this, e.g. what definition of consciousness you use, and how research supports it. In the OP, you appear to favor a definition that is often called "self-awareness," in which we need to determine at what point in evolution there is a sense of a self distinct from others and an internal narrative of one's self with a chronological ordering of memories and so on. The psychologist Julian Jaynes famously addressed this sort of consciousness with his (largely discredited, but still much admired for refining our questions about consciousness) bombshell book, "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind," back in the 70s. Jaynes posited consciousness, in his definition, as arising quite recently, since Homeric times. It may be worth seeing how other scholars pushed back against this. Some animal behaviorists see evidence of self-aware behaviors (as in mirror experiments, e.g.) in all the great apes and some other primate species and cetaceans. And there is considerable debate as to the importance of language in creating a sense of a distinct self. Or where the dividing line is between language and purely instinctive "calls." Just saying, there is something to be said for not taking too big a conceptual chunk all at once.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on June 13th, 2018, 7:57 pm 

Philosophers have addressed the over arching questions of consciousness more elegantly than scientists in my opinion. On a seemingly unrelated but somehow relevant note I strongly side with Dennett against Harris on the question of freewill. As BadgerJelly has often pointed out the reductionist approach is often unsatisfying. Complex chaotic systems such as the brain are particularly resistant to reduction.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on June 13th, 2018, 11:03 pm 

Here is a bit of science that may illuminate some of the problems with defining consciousness.

https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/split.html

Both sides of the slip brain are aware but not in the same way. It tends to discredit the idea that language is involved because the subject can literally picture what is seen on the screen but can't speak it.

As I tried to point out earlier by discussing the freewill debate such a confusing mismatch of data calls for gross oversimplification. The danger is in thinking the thing itself is the same as the definition that was socially evolved. It's kind of like having a scientific investigation into the question is money real.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 18th, 2018, 12:06 pm 

Thank you BiV for providing some guidance to help steer me toward sensibility. As a small start I would say that I had read Jayne's cumbersomely titled book and liked his theory but also found little to take it further in recent published work. So I feel that he was right but I have been looking for another way to test that conclusion and have made a number of observations in that direction.

But harking back to the path you set out. I will say that although I have not found definitive modern work to nail down the Jayne's supposition, I have spent some time trying to understand consciousness in a way that would be helpful for my purposes and while several authors have had some resonance, perhaps the best overall has been Michael S.A. Graziano, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Princeton University. (Coincidentally that is where Jayne's was). Graziano's book is: "CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE SOCIAL BRAIN" , Oxford University Press, 2013.

I am also attaching a good article written by Graziano in Atlantic which explains his ideas https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/how-consciousness-evolved/485558/

From there I have been attracted to various work on the social brain related to these ideas - such as Edmund O. Wilson ("THE SOCIAL CONQUEST OF THE EARTH").
Thanks again for your help and the help of the others. I will try to take small steps to fill in all gthe blanks.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby Braininvat on June 18th, 2018, 12:52 pm 

That Atlantic article is a terrific introduction to Attention Schema Theory (AST), and a "must read" for this thread.

I am still unsure where to put this thread - given the evolutionary aspect, perhaps it should go over to Biology or SS. I guess we can see how it develops, eh?

I have removed the 4-5 posts that were a sidebar on posting guidelines and format. Like all posts here, they are not actually deleted, and can be retrieved if some pocket of on-topic material was inadvertently removed.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby pythicnome on June 18th, 2018, 3:42 pm 

Thanks BiV.
Still apropos defining consciousness, I wanted to raise some general contextual issues and also to make one proposal as a different basis for arriving at a practical definition for the purposes of the further line of research I am attempting to pursue.
On the first part - contextual issues in defining the term, I wanted to point out that consciousness is a subject or property that is of practical and theoretical interest to a number of different fields and areas of application. Much of this is medical and includes both medical treatment and medical law. In the latter category we are all aware of the debates over what constitutes "brain-death" and its importance. We also know that consciousness is a word applied to very widespread use as a descriptive term to illustrate a variety of physical conditions or appearances.

So, to an extent, as your comments also seem to recognize, the term consciousness is representative of a great many things, some of which may over-lap and some which may be unrelated. Also to an extent we can observe that the definition chosen is related to the problem that is being solved. In this vein I have cited Michael Graziano because his work relatea this property to what he called the "social brain", which is ultimately the area into which I am also heading.

But if I may now move onto the second part of my query here, which is your opinion of a proposal to define consciousness by a, let me call it a"performance measure", like the boiling point f water, or having 20-20 vision. And perhaps it is similar to how Chompsky(?) said he would determine whether he was talking to a human being or a robot.
In this context I am focused on the cognitive and behavioral differences between our closest living species and ourselves and in particular and unusually in how we humans understand and behave in modern times. This last respect can also be compared to humans at an earlier stage in our species history or the histories of our predecessor species - e.g. Neanderthal or H. Erectus.
If I can jump to the specifics which act as - is it "exemplars", for example the sudden and radical appearance of pictoral representation around 40-50,000 years ago, human villages (e.g. masonry-built) - as pertains to the end of the last Ice Age around 11,000 years ago and the emergence of written products containing or making use of abstract thinking.
So the question is, can the term consciousness for these purposes be defined in terms of the human mind capable of conceiving of and physical implementation of such "cultural" examples or abilities?
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on June 18th, 2018, 11:56 pm 

Domestication of humans would be a worthwhile area of investigation too.

Abstract thinking, at its lowest level, must have come hand in hand with the rise of consciousness (mapping of the environment.)

I was thinking about this topic the other day and remembered what it was like to be a kid with an active imagination. I would purposely “lie” to myself, create stories and roleplay. These memories are very powerful to me even to this day and I can recall the sensations and emotions brought on by letting go of “reality” and believing the unbelievable.

The instance I recalled was my first introduction to the word “lunatic”. My first understanding of this resembled something of a yellow skinned zombie-like being (not that I knew anything about zombies at the time) who wanted to kill children, for me then I imagined it as a kind of species “lunatic”. I recall all the kids in my class at the bottom of the field in the height of summer literally creating an entire mythos around this “lunatic” idea (which, very likely, none of us had any serious idea what it was.) We all wanted a role in the creation of the mythos, it was socially empowering I guess and as we did so we cared more about the creativity than the truth or evidence; I remember “pretending” to have been shot at and pointed out a hole I had in my thin jacket I had never noticed before.
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Re: The Evolution of Human Consciousness

Postby mitchellmckain on June 19th, 2018, 4:42 am 

pythicnome » June 10th, 2018, 6:06 pm wrote:After discussing a number of the properties of consciounsess in the human context and some reference to animal consciousness and "sensate" awareness which are common to most if not all of life I make the specific comparison between the consciousness of a modern Chimpanzee and a modern Homo Sapien and note the highly significant nature of the differences between the two, despite the genetic closeness. Our civilization is, in effect a major portiopn of the evidence of the product of the difference. Also our position at having eliminated our predators and having conquered all habitats, and having opened the door to conceptual thinking.

I then pose this question: If we have a different consciousness from the Chimpanzee now and assume that 6-7 million years ago we did not - as we were both the same species, then we can conclude that our consciousness emerged during this 6-7 million year period. We can then list the major developments in our evolution over that time and try to determine which of them have had some link to the emergence of our consciousness. As on overlay we can also look at the development of the human brain within this period.

I would suggest that like intelligence, human consciousness is not a singular thing but a collection of many different abilities working together. Like technology, the developments can seem incremental until we unlock something that opens up a whole new frontier of development and suddenly the changes come many times faster than before. It think much of the history of evolution is the same way.

pythicnome » June 10th, 2018, 6:06 pm wrote:What stands out, is that although there are a number of interesting links, themajority of the evidence - as for exampe in our civlization - does not appear until around 11,000 years ago and some not till 3-4,000 years ago. This is surprising given our relatively long evolution. Most of it is not stricty related to our modern form of consciousness.

This at first sight tends to support some of those that have claimed that human consciousness is a fairly recent phenomenon. (Most scientists have not dealt with this topic per se).

It only points to key developments at those particular times and they may be memetic (ideas) rather than genetic. It could be something like the use of grain as a food stuff which encouraged more specialization of tasks in the human community. Though if you are particularly looking for something which distinguishes us from the animals, I think this is most likely found in our abstract linguistic abilities.

pythicnome » June 10th, 2018, 6:06 pm wrote:So from the starting position that human consciousness is a relatively recent phenomenon, I go back and try to determine what prior states of mind did we have - you could call then "proto-conscious" states as we evolved away from the Chimapzees. My work to date has focussed on two prior states of mind, one going back to the period when bi-pedalism developed and the other to post the control of fire.

I don't think you can isolate it in this way as a flip from Chimpazee to human, or proto-conscious to fully conscious. Instead I think we are looking at a history of many changes some of which bring profound outward transformations in behavior and other which are more subtle. I see no reason to think the changes in human consciousness of this century are any less significant than the changes of previous centuries.

Frankly your approach looks practically theological in nature as if you are looking for an event which "ensouled" us or something and thus made us human. I will not say this is not a rational belief, but I have considerable doubt that you can justify it objectively.

pythicnome » June 10th, 2018, 6:06 pm wrote:One of the conclusions that arise from this work is that our modern human consciousness has gievn us the unique negative knowledge of our individual deaths - The Garden of Eden scene portrays this elegantly in the awareness of being naked. It is a terrible burden and I ask the question why it evolved and have concluded that we as individuals did not necessarily need it - as no other animal has it -but our evolving human society did require it. Our society needs conscious individuals. That is the sacrifice it demands. But it gives us religion to help assuage the knowledge of death.

Now the theological bent in your analysis is even stronger and the ability to find objective justification is more difficult than ever. What also naturally goes along with that is going to be a diversity of ideas/conclusions as well. I, for example, see no reason to think that humans are unique in having an awareness of death or individuality. Thus I see no burden there other than the one that always comes with being alive whatever your species may be.

pythicnome » June 10th, 2018, 6:06 pm wrote:I go on to look at how religion and science have been going separate ways and how science has still not provided the means of coping with our death - apart from looking fro eternal life or durgs that change our perception.

I look at how chess and football have been going their separate ways, and wonder why anyone would attach some monumental significance to this. The interests of people diverge. Why shouldn't they? How is religion and science any different? Well... perhaps religion belongs more in the chess and football category -- something which many people have no reason to find any interest in whatsoever. In the case of science, however, the work there seems to have profound impacts for everyone, and thus we have good reason to take the developments there much more seriously. Though.... perhaps those obsessed and living their whole lives for football don't really care about this anyway. LOL
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