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Culture & Religion

How Consciousness Survived Evolutionary Selection

The evolutionary development of human consciousness has proven extremely successful. This is because it allows us to enjoy life and overcome the reality of our foreboding death. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The evolutionary development of consciousness has made all the difference for the human species, but the details of this slippery faculty are hard to come by. In understanding the evolutionary role of consciousness, renowned English psychologist Nicholas Humphrey examines its development: First came simple reactions to our environment, the way a plant may respond to the sun, followed by the development of a central nervous system, allowing us to localize sensations in the body. Then, humans conceived of time as something more stable than it actually is, creating past and future from infinitesimal present moments. 

What’s the Big Idea?

After creating a stable past and future, a quick extension of the concepts would lead anyone to recognize the inevitability of their own death, and the death of all future generations, etc. Humphrey does not consider this realization to be a terribly helpful adaptation. But for him, consciousness has the ability to escape itself through beauty and enjoyment. Artistic endeavors like poetry and film-making reach beyond the limits of an organic human life, giving us a sense of immortality and encouraging ourselves not to give up so that our genes might be passed on to future generations…

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