The mind/body problem is intrinsically related to the concept of consciousness. Two philosophical positions that bound this concept are 1) your consciousness is dependent on the immutable laws of physics that have been subject to the forces of evolution or 2) your consciousness is dependent on a reality separate from the laws of physics. For the purposes of this discussion we designate this separate reality as C. In position (2) our consciousness is dependent on C and C is independent of the laws of physics that have been deduced by our species through logic and measurement.

Positions (1) and (2) can be explored via an evolutionary thought experiment which begins in the past but is aimed at the future. The family dog and I share a common ancestor-a single individual who lived perhaps 10 million years ago. Although we share this common ancestor our knowledge and appreciation of the universe is quite different. Among other things the dog appreciates sex, food, and smell, and for some reason howls at the moon. While I don’t howl at the moon I understand the planetary nature of the moon, gravity, and Newton’s laws of motion. Some of my species understands relativity and quantum mechanics. Now fast forward 10 million years into the future. The descendants of some of the human species might be only slightly different from us (call them homo maxima sapiens-HMS) while some of descendants of the human species might be as different from us as we are from the family dog (call them homo future-HF). HF might have significantly larger brains, other biological information processing components, and additional senses. (A dog might have better luck describing us than we would have describing HF.) HF might be able to communicate with HMS with the same limited success we communicate with the family dog. They might view HMS’s knowledge of quantum mechanics much like we view a dog’s howling at the moon; “what’s going on in their little brain that makes them do that”. Basically put, our knowledge of the universe is limited by the current evolutionary status of our brain. There is no guarantee this status is up to the task of deciding between philosophical postulates concerning consciousness or for that matter the “meaning of life”. This is not the limitation of logic discovered by Kurt Gödel. It is the biological limit imposed by realizing that evolution is not yet over. HMS’s (or our) musings on the meaning of life or the wonder of consciousness are certainly part of our experience and appreciation of life but these musings may be as far from the final answer as howling at the moon is from Newton’s laws of motion.

Theists and atheists have addressed these competing propositions. Atheists align with position (1) since the supernatural is left out of this world view. Theists align with position (2) and relate C to a supreme being. Within the Christian tradition, the concept of faith is adopted to open the consciousness of believers to the supernatural.

Positions (1) and (2) can also be formulated via our understanding of time. In position (1) consciousness follows biology on earth while in position (2) C precedes biology on earth. Given this formulation the implications of position (2) for theists are obvious. In the Christian tradition a loving God starts the whole human experience. However an atheistic interpretation of position (2) is not only rational under this formulation- it has an analogy with one of the most important evolutionary events in history. Water became essential for life on earth 100M years ago via an adaptation made by our microscopic ancestors which exploited the chemistry of an existing substance. The family dog and I benefit from this adaptation but the family dog does not understand the chemistry of water while members of my species, thanks to genetic and cultural evolution, certainly do. The consciousness experienced and amplified by our ancestors over the last 500,000 years may be an adaptation which exploits the existence of C. It may take another 10M years of evolution for the substantially evolved descendents of homo sapiens (HF) to understand the mechanisms of this adaptation. Unfortunately it may be beyond the capabilities of our closely related descendents (HMF), or us, to share in this knowledge.

While the assertion that our consciousness is solely dependent on evolution (position 1 above) may be true, it is not provable given the evolutionary status of our brain, and therefore may in fact be false. Likewise the assertion that our consciousness is derived from a reality separate from the known laws of physics, C, may be true, but it is not provable given the evolutionary status of our brain, and therefore may in fact be false. The only thing provable is that this uncertainty is part of the human condition.