It seems to me that there are two main camps of thought regarding the origin of consciousness. The first camp considers it an epiphenomenon (i.e. an end result of) matter. After 13 billion years eventually enough of this tumbling, insentient matter got together in just the right way (nevermind how for now) and made something that was able to perceive itself.
The second camp believes that either consciousness is inherent in matter in media res, i.e. from the creation of the universe, or consciousness naturally arose from this progression by some directing force. Now when I say directing I’m not necessarily referring to the hand of a supernatural being. A river following a channel down a mountain is directed, and we can rightly predict where a volume of water will head. I am therefore talking here about proper initial conditions.
There is a third camp that believes that man was plopped here on the sixth day, creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing, about 6000 years ago, with no progression, no evolution of form and thought. This camp is just too stupid to consider, so we’ll drop it.
If you haven’t guessed already, this topic was inspired by a very interesting and intense discussion going on over at Lauren McLaughlin’s blog about the sometimes destructive paths of blind faith. This got me a thinkin.
Why I lean towards the second camp:
Because, to me, information is meaningless without a perceiver. Not just meaningless, but the whole concept of information doesn’t even make sense without a perceiver. If I say I have three atoms per cubic foot of empty space, what does that mean if we remove the observer? Measurement, count, and concepts of “space” disappear. But, can we remove the observer?
A proton is attracted to an electron but is repelled by another proton. Isn’t the proton in some way aware of the presence of the other particles? Isn’t this reaction a kind of rudimentary consciousness? Before intelligent life arose — before even life arose — can you not say that the universe was in some sense aware (even if only marginally so)? Otherwise, particles would be flying in a thousand directions and never once interacting in all eternity. As the uncertainty principle has shown, awareness of an object must imply interaction with it. Hence, interaction implies awareness of.
The Entropic Argument:
This argument may at first sound like the anthropic principle, but after further consideration you will see that it is not. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all systems increase in entropy over time, that is, they increase their disorder. But, cries the wise philosopher, what about humanity? How can such an intelligent, complex, ordered being arise in a universe which is ever increasing in entropy? And the wise physicist answers that Earth and perhaps other planets like it are merely pockets of increasing order in a system with large amounts of disorder. The overall entropy is increasing, but it decreases in small areas like the Earth. The net sum is always increasing.
But I say, if this is so, if the total amount of disorder in the universe is increasing, and humanity and the Earth are considered a small packet of complex order, then at some point in the past there must have been an order more complex than the human being and the Earth. The universe is, after all, winding down, not winding up.
This is not an attempt to prove there is a God, but merely to show that, if I am interpreting this law correctly, that something more ordered than us existed at some point in the past, and if we take this back to the creation of our universe, where the order was supposedly greatest, that thing or object or being or whatever was a lot more complex and ordered than we are.