Difference does not imply Independence

by practicalspactical

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/07/thomas-nagel-thoughts-are-real.html#entry-more

Seems like Nagel (if represented correctly by Brody) misses the point — the fact that consciousness or mentality is different than common physical processes such as electric signalling does not mean that it is independent or that the universe possesses some teleological aim towards consciousness & reason, any more than the phase shift between chemistry and biology means that the universe possesses some teleological aim towards life. 

(If Nagel’s only point is that the universe has to contain the possibility of consciousness for consciousness to exist, fine, but so what?)

There is absolutely no evidence that physics cannot account for mental processes, and that Darwinian evolution cannot account for mental processes. The idea that there is some break between these disciplines is merely the fact that we’ve been able to explore this area of physics with the tools of science for less than 50 years with only the bluntest of instruments. 

We build physical sensors all of the time, and we program our machines to react to such sensors. That process, multiplied 10 billion times, and created and refined by natural selection across the 3.5 billion year history of life on Earth, appears to us as consciousness. 

Just as biology is a special subset of chemistry & physics, ultimately, consciousness will also almost certainly be found to be a special subset of biology, chemistry, & physics. It is something that simply starts to happen when the underlying physics are in place, no different than stellar fusion. 

While that rightfully elevates consciousness to a phenomenon equal in dignity to the shining of the stars, what it does not do is imply a trans-physical independence of consciousness as non-materialist, with the hopes for non-materialist post-life survival of consciousness that such independence might imply.