Evolution and The Mind — A Sneaky Pair
My teacher once told me “All is Mind”. Alas it is true and there is a catch-22 there. Mind comes from evolution and they make a sneaky pair.
The leading hypothesis of the evolution of life on the planet involve the formation of some very basic but very interesting molecules. Because of the abundance of molecular materials and the chemical properties of those materials, they had the peculiar ability to replicate themselves. These molecules continued to replicate over time, until competition arose for the molecular raw materials (amino acids) needed to generate new generations. Of course this wasn’t a conscious competition. The “winners” were simply the molecules that were most successful in acquiring the raw materials and replicating.
This is natural selection. As these replicators succeeded “strategies” evolved whereby one replicator could undermine or even prey on other replicators;.consuming them and their raw materials. These strategies involved larger and more complex configurations, and grew into larger and more complex systems. All of these systems sustaining themselves because they maintained the ability to replicate.
At some point structures that would one day serve as cell organelles evolved. The perhaps via some symbiotic, or more likely parasitic, strategies these structures joined forces. Cells were eventually formed. Of course, the success of these cells, was measured in their ability to replicate the genes that programmed them within a highly competitive environment.
Next these cells continued to increase in complexity (alway as a function of natural selection). Multicellular life formed. Competition between members of the same species began to drive newer traits. Species became more complex and adaptive through the process of natural selection. The “winners” continuing on, the losers joining the dust heap of evolution.
Then, relatively recently on the 4 billion year time scale, beings evolved nervous systems, brains, and then minds. Why? The likely answer: natural selection, augmented by something else called sexual selection. The latter a consequence of the appearance of sex on the scene. Sexual selection appeared as the result of the competition between members of the same sex for sexual partners. It generated traits that the extremely slow and efficient natural selection would abhor.
Sexual selection is likely responsible for the showier less useful traits we see in nature. Peacocks tails, complex mating rituals, and the rather impressive and troublesome human mind are good candidates of for sexually selected traits.
A great book on this topic is Richard Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene”. He does a great job giving a lot of scientific explanation without excessive scientific jargon, mathematical details, and complexity.
Mind is a tricky thing that may not behave using the rules we think they do. Here is my point: