Evolution of Consciousness Concluded, Vegetarianism

Ok, instead of working on converting an IDL program into MATLAB, I’ve decided to conclude my blog post from yesterday. Ah, grad school.

Also, I think I figured out where this theory is taken from, and I’m pretty sure it’s from Damasio. I’ve only read one book of his: Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (I’m a sucker for anything about Spinoza), which does deal with his theory about emotions and feelings which I’m about to go into, but I think he might have a better book if you’re interested in the topic, titled: The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness.

Without going into a lot of detail, Damasio pretty much says that emotions (such as fear, love, etc) evolved before and separately from feelings, which is the conscious experience of these emotions. This is important since many people wouldn’t seperate the two: “all emotions are experienced…aren’t they?”. I remember a famous experiment (I’m not saying this proves my point…) involving a woman asking a questionnaire to men who were crossing either a shaky bridge or a stable bridge. Half way through the questionnaire the woman would give the men her phone number. It was found that 60% of the men who were crossing the shaky bridge called the woman back, compared to 30% on the stable bridge. The interpretation is that the men interpreted their fear on the bridge as arousal for the woman (Dutton and Aron, 1974). Thus the emotion of fear was reinterpreted and felt as arousal.
[I think this psychwiki discusses it]

Now, why did emotions evolve in the first place? Steven Pinker, in How the Mind Works, (Chapter 6) suggests that they evolved as these autopilot type behaviours that convince other people that we are indeed serious, and not lying. Thus, love evolved because it was important for the male to convince the female that he was going to be loyal to the woman, and stay after the birth of the child to help rear the child (and vice versa, but so that the male would be convinced that the woman wasn’t cheating on him, and thus cause him to raise a child that wasn’t his own). Love, being this over-dramatic, intense feeling that takes us over, is that way because otherwise it would have been too easy to imitate.
[I found a pretty good summary here]

The main idea is that an arms race emerged, between people becoming better and better at convincing people that they really are being true, and being able to detect liars, i.e. being able to read social cues. Ok, now comes the REALLY speculative stuff. I think this is mainly from Hofstradter (read Godel, Escher, Bach: A Golden Braid to really melt your brain. God I Love that book). Hofstradter’s idea about consciousness is that it came about as a strange loop. What he means by this is that, as humans evolved, and the need to continuously evolve more and more advanced readings of other people’s minds, we (as an evolutionary by-product…not sure if this is Hofstradter’s…or Dennett’s…I have no idea at this point) ended up reading our own minds and |||MIND FUCK||| through this bizarre self-referencial loop we gained consciousness.

Wow. I think that writing it out like this really makes me realize how much speculation is involved in this theory. But it’s the best I’ve ever read, and I believe backed up by the research. I only wish I could remember where everything is taken from.

…and this was supposed to lead into a blurb about vegetarianism…but I think I’ll save that for the next blog post…



About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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One Response to Evolution of Consciousness Concluded, Vegetarianism

  1. Pingback: Why I Am an Vegetarian « Dontdontoperate’s Blog

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