CAN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY EXPLAIN THE EXISTENCE OF CONSCIOUSNESS?

A debate at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH.

5th September, 2000, 7:30-9:00 pm.

Consciousness seems central to human life. But neural processing in the brain does not seem to require it. So, why are human beings conscious? According to evolutionary theory, consciousness must be an adaption that enhances reproductive fitness. But, if brains or computers could function just as well without it, why and how did consciousness appear? And, if consciousness is not an adaptation, what consequences are there for evolutionary theory? In tonight's debate, four scientists who have all worked on consciousness, but arrived at very different conclusions, discuss these issues.
Chair: Professor Alex Kacelnik
Speakers:
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Professor Euan Macphail: The evolution of language is the key to the evolution of consciousness.
Professor Jeffrey Gray: Evolutionary theory must be able to explain the existence of consciousness (but I haven't the faintest idea how).
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Professor Stevan Harnad: Consciousness cannot be functional, it can just be.
Dr Max Velmans: Evolutionary theory can account for the forms of consciousness but not its existence.
Brief Bios:
Alex Kacelnik heads the Behaviour and Ecology Research Group,
Department of Zoology, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3PS
Euan Macphail is author of The Evolution of Consciousness, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Department of Psychology, University of York,York YO10 5DD
Jeffrey Gray is author of "The contents of consciousness: a neuropsychological conjecture" BBS, 1995.
Department of Psychology, The Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London
Stevan Harnad is author of "Correlation VS. Causality: How/Why the Mind/Body Problem Is Hard"
Department of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ
Max Velmans is author of Understanding Consciousness. Routledge/Psychology Press, 2000.
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW.