Book Review: The Consciousness Instinct

The Consciousness Instinct, by Michael S. Gazzaniga

This book was at least somewhat disappointing because it did not provide nearly as much science as I expected when it comes to the matter of consciousness.  On the other hand, the book is one of those volumes that ends up being unintentionally damaging to materialism and evolution for a variety of reasons.  For example, if consciousness is an emergent property that evolved, then it has to be present in all life forms in some fashion, which would mean that one must not only investigate the awareness of animals, many of which show some sort of response to external stimuli, but that of plants and fungi and various one-celled organisms.  The author also seems far too uninterested in the design implications of what he refers to in consciousness as being a certain complex set of instincts that become more and more complex the more intelligent a particular life form happens to be.  Naturally, there are a great many problems discussed here when it comes to the problem of defining what exactly consciousness is, as well as dealing with the mind-brain dualism that has made truly understanding consciousness impossible so far, and at least for the foreseeable future so long as scientists continue to put their head in the sand looking for evolutionary explanations.

This particular book is a bit more than 200 pages and is is divided into three parts and ten chapters.  The book begins with an introduction, before the first part of the book which discusses consciousness and the preparation for modern thought as the author teleologically describes it (I), with chapters on the historical view of consciousness that the author does not approve of (1), the dawn of what the author views as “empirical” thinking (2), and some of what the author considers to be 20th century strides towards understanding consciousness (3).  After that the author looks at the physical system of the brain (II), with chapters on the modular nature of brains (4), the desire to understand the architecture of the brain (5), and the fine line that exists between sanity and consciousness that means that people with dementia are still conscious (6).  After that, the third part of the book discusses the origins of consciousness (III), with chapters on the concept of complementarity that comes from physics (7), the transition from non-living to living and from neurons to mind (8), the bubbling nature of personal consciousness (9), and the author’s view that consciousness is an instinct (10), after which the book concludes with notes, acknowledgements, and an index.

For someone who is not as wedded to evolutionary thinking as the author is, I find that this book gives a great deal of unintentional insight into consciousness and the gratitude that we should have to God for it.  For one, the author’s belief that consciousness is an instinct means that there is some sort of programming for it, given that instinct contains a high degree of information content to it.  In addition to that, the author’s view of the human mind as being particularly efficient due to its modular design and the author’s interest in the architecture of the brain means that, however unintentionally and perhaps even against his will the author provides a great deal of insight into God as a programmer, designer, and architect.  Obviously, then, this book is of great interest to those who have a design perspective as it provides considerable insight into the ways that the human mind and even other minds were designed to deal with reality and how human beings reflect on that reality by subcreating subjective internal worlds.  Whether that is the author’s intention or not is hard to say, but it is an achievement nonetheless.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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