Evolution can't explain consciousness (Talk.Origins)
Evolution cannot explain consciousness or free will.
- Johnson, Phillip, 1990. Evolution as dogma: The establishment of naturalism. First Things, Oct. 1990, 15-22.
It is interesting to note that the primary point of the referenced source of this claim is that evolution’s scientific dominance is a result of defining terms so as to eliminate the competition (creation) — something that Talk Origins is conveniently ignoring.
The statement on which the claim is based does not say that evolution cannot explain consciousness or free will. The actual statement is:
What is truly a miracle, in the pejorative sense of an event having no rational connection with what has gone before, is the emergence of a being with consciousness, free will, and a capacity to understand the laws of nature in a universe which in the beginning contained only matter in mindless motion.
Basically, Johnson is saying that a naturalistic origin of consciousness is more of a miracle than is a supernatural one.
The accuracy of the claim as stated depends on the nature of consciousness. If consciousness is nothing but a function of the brain, then the only issue is whether evolution could have produced the human brain. If, however, consciousness is separate from the brain, evolution clearly could not have produced it.
The answer to this question is largely philosophical, and it probably cannot be answered by studying the brain or by any other observation. If consciousness is separate from the brain, the person’s mind and brain work closely together, such that what affects one affects the other. The result is that when the mind acts the brain reacts and when something affects the brain it influences the mind.
The interpretation of evidence depends on one's starting assumptions. The simple fact is that observations of the brain would be the same whether or not the mind and brain are separate or the same thing. As a result, questions about the nature of the mind cannot be answered by observation; they will always remain purely philosophical.