It is here proposed that the evolution of life was destined to produce self consciousness out of physical matter just as surely as self-consciousness is destined to be produced by the build up of matter from the human zygote.
Our external vantage point allows us to see the process whereby an individual human matures from the point of conception We are in a position to witness all the stages in the life of individual humans. Activities such as birth, death, growth and decay go on all around us. Conversely on the grand scale of things, taking life as a whole, we are in the middle of evolving life and so we don’t have an overall, clear picture of the process.
In this video Sean B. Carroll states that:
…living things are occupying a planet whose surface is always changing. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tectonic movement, ice ages, climate changes whether local or global, all of these keep changing the environments that species are in, they are running to keep up and most of the time they fail. So we have to think about earth’s history to understand life’s history. We have to understand what’s going on at any particular place to appreciate what’s going on with any particular species.
The same could be said for the cells in your body. Their environment is always changing and most of them do not survive as you change from embryo to adult. From an individual cell’s point of view there may not seem to be any direction.Some live some die, some change slowly, others change dramatically. But from the higher perspective of the whole body there certainly is direction.
It must be acknowledged that vertebrates evolve at the different rates. Coelacanths have been around for hundreds of millions of years. When animals within a group are compared, the ones that are deemed to be the most primitive are those that retain characteristics from the node of the group’s branch. So among vertebrates coelacanths are considered more primitive than humans even taking into account that they have had the same amount of time for their evolution.
Rational Wiki explains that:
Biologists have evidence that all life developed from a common ancestor that lived just under 4 billion years ago, and the concept is accepted by virtually all scientists working in the field.
If that is true then every single tetrapod alive today has an unbroken ancestry dating back to this common ancestor. Every amniote can trace their ancestry from a water existence to organisms that first set foot on the land, to fully air breathing, but still exothermic, organisms, and finally on to endothermic mammals and birds. At each stage these animals have become more detached from the external environment. I hope the following points will make this clear.
If we follow tetrapod evolution there is a progression from external to internal fertilisation, from eggs deposited in the environment to eggs protected from the environment by an outer shell and then on to gestation within the mother. Even after birth mammals do not take their sustenance directly from the environment but from the mammary glands of the mother.
And humans generally are not content to eat food taken directly from nature. It is altered by extracting, mixing, cooking and preparing so that much of the time the consumer does not even know where it originated.
We aim to nullify the effects of weather and seasons by the use of suitable clothing, We are able to eat food that is out of season by having it transported round the world or by preserving it, or dehydrating it or freezing it. We do not depend on the seasons for procreation and we are able assist conception when it doesn’t occur naturally. All of this serves to detach us more and more from our surrounding environment. Some people are not happy about this detachment and so they call for us to “get back to nature”.
But this separation is necessary for self consciousness to develop. An organism that does not feel itself to be outside of nature cannot have self consciousness.
There must be a feeling of “me in here against nature out there”. We humans are unique in considering our activities as contrasting with the natural world. We contrast natural with artificial. No other animal has separated itself from nature to the extent that humans have.
Humans can trace their ancestry back through reptile-like, amphibian-like and fish-like conditions, the latter three have obviously remained at an earlier condition than humans. This does not mean that they haven’t evolved since the split with the ancestors of humans. After all there are a multitude of ways of being a reptile, an amphibian or a fish. It just means that they haven’t grown out of the environment they find themselves in to the extent that humans have.
This separation from the environment can even be observed in each individual human looking from toe to top. We can be said to have our feet planted firmly on the earth. Gravity holds us to the earth and our legs support our weight and allow us to move about. Our arms are freed from this task and using the marvelous structures at the ends of them we can create out of the substances of the earth. Gravity plays a lesser part in their activities. Moving on up our brains, being suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, are even more free from earths gravity. Using our brains we create, not from the substances of the earth but out of our inner selves. Being encased in the skull separates our brains even more from the external environment.
Using our hands we mould earthly substance, using our brains we mould thoughts.
Evolution is a creative process and it has turned creatures into creators.