The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Attributing Human Consciousness to the Theory of Evolution is false and invalid

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/21/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,047 times Debate No: 49624
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (24)
Votes (1)




From my side of the debate I will expound that the theory of evolution does not apply to the cause of human consciousness, in further detail; gradual accumulation of cognitive faculties throughout the course of time by means of ‘natural selection’ is not responsible for the difference between our self awareness and the seemingly lack thereof abound in the rest of the animal (or creature) kingdom.

My argument will be bolstered by one crucial idea: The difference between the nature of our (humankind) consciousness (or the self-aware/question asking mind) and that of those deemed ‘lower’ animals (or creatures) is not of a quantitative difference, but of a qualitative difference. And possibly supplemented with the argument that consciousness (or mind) is not just a mere manifestation (or emergence) of the brain organ, but can reasonably be suspected to be an element of its own given the proper insight.

Put in another way: If a rat (or any other so called ‘low’ animal), evolves for millions, or billions, or even quintillions of years, its consciousness will not ‘gradually accumulate’ bringing it closer to our level; strictly because of a misapprehension (or false assessment) of what is suspected to be the true nature of our consciousness.



Thanks to Pro for offering the debate.

My objective in this debate is to show that Human conciousness is something that could have, and probably did arise via Evolution. Furthermore, since the resolution is worded as a positive statement, then I will allow Pro to make his opening arguments and concentrate on rebuttals. I am especially interested to see what model of mind Pro will put forth that is not wholly dependant on the brain.

I will lay out briefly my own presuppositions and biases, and I would liek pro to list which ones he does not agree with so I may tailor my rebuttals accordingly:

1. The natural world exists
2. Evolution is true at least for the diversification of life (I presume the evolution of brain, and mind is what Pro holds in contention)
3. Natural selection is real evolutionary mechanism
4. The Earth is 4.5 bn years old
5. Other Human beings have independant conciousness (i.e. I reject Hard Sollopsism).

I am sure there are more we will run into, but it would be good to clear these out ASAP, even if my opponent doesnt agree with them.

Back to Pro!

Debate Round No. 1


I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to have this debate with Con. I hope he can help me better understand how it is possible that the evolutionary theory could solely be the answer to how humankind came into possession of the mind, and that all of our questions and inquiries into the mysteries of the origin, essence, and nature of phenomena is a direct consequence, or result, of said evolution; because my argument is indeed to the contrary, of which I will hold to my word and expound in this debate.

May he forgive any ignorance on my part, and correct any false contentions I may have, but what I will share, ask, or explain is a sincere suspicion regarding this matter.

Now to satisfy his curiosity I will answer his questions.

  1. I concur

  2. I concur, evolution is indeed very apparent to me, just not pertaining to the essence of self-aware consciousness

  3. I concur

  4. I truly have no interest regarding the age of the planet

  5. I concur, but to an extent, and that extent is’ independence’. I hold to the view of interdependence (no phenomena is truly independent / no phenomena exists inherently)

I will begin by making what I see to be fine but significant distinctions between intellect (knowledge) and reason (wisdom), and express my suspicion that the latter does not arise or emerge as a result by development of the former. (My view stems from the Pythagorean model for Human Consciousness, which he divided into three parts: Passion, Intellect, and Reason, with it he noted “Passion and Intellect are possessed by the other animals, but ‘Reason’ by man alone.)

Reason (introspection, question asking, and inquiry born of withdrawal [skillful or otherwise]) exists unilaterally with intellect (the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills) for those in possession of both, therefore, those who are not (‘lower animals’) will not acquire it through evolution, or natural advancement, of their mere intellect; because the relationship between intellect (the seed of knowledge), and reason (the seed of wisdom [where I argue self-awareness resides]) is not of causality.

Intellect gives birth to conditioned responses, whereas reason gives birth to creative responses (this is humankind’s unique ‘edge’ over the lower animals). The differences between the two are paramount. We can teach animals many impressive things, but what they fail to do is be able to take what they learn from us and teach it to their own kin, or anything else for that matter, even another human. I believe it is Aristotle who is accredited with the quote “The true demonstration of one’s own understanding of something lies within their ability to teach”, which they (animals) apparently fail to be able to do so, for they are merely trained (conditioned) by factors from without, thus it is not a true teaching (an awakening to creation), because there is no true understanding (reasoned upon by factors from within), which on the other hand can arise seemingly spontaneous even amongst human children. I argue the cause to be because of an inherent higher quality of mind rather than an accumulated higher quantity of mind.

Now the animal perhaps, dare I say, could ‘acquire piece by piece’ what we have (regarding consciousness) would it be able to achieve an infinite lifespan (immortality), but this is no less of the same dilemma of an object trying to accelerate to the speed of light by achieving an infinite mass (omnipresence).

I can also present my case in a more illustrious fashion using the legend of the ‘Philosophers Stone’ (which I contend to be a euphemism for the human mind [in the likeness of “god” {i.e. prime creative source}] hence its cool name) An object that can turn base metals into gold; an un-evolved unconditioned creative source (reason and self-awareness) evolving and conditioning a less than ‘divine’ (baser intellect) phenomena into a state of more wieldable use.

Now we can increase and quantify the quality of that gold (more and more effectively conditioning an animal to wield higher and higher knowledge and skills, by means of human teaching or natural evolutionary natural selection); but that doesn’t bring said gold one iota closer to being another Philosophers Stone.

Now there is more to be said on ‘mind’, especially pertaining to reason (creative sources and creative responses of consciousness) and its origin and nature, but I’m sure that’s going to fit better with, and more appropriate to introduce in, my answer to Cons rebuttals to my proposed argument thus far against attributing our consciousness and its aspects to evolutionary theory.



Thanks Pro for your opening statement:


Please forgive me, I have left this debate on the back boiler (procrastinated) for much too long and this argument isn’t going to be of the quality I would like it to be. Furthermore, thanks for your answers regarding my presuppositions, it seems we have pretty much the same starting point except on Human consciousness, this much I am happy with.


My arguments attempting to show that Human consciousness is an emergent property. One that is a quantitative step along the evolutionary tree. As expected, my side is to argue that consciousness is exclusively determined by the physical brain, and all the processes that lead to its emergence is purely as a result of changes that occur within the brain during the relatively recent Human evolution.

Human Conciousness:

At what point does one define a consciousness to be Human consciousness? I argue that it is much the same as asking ‘at what point does one define a puddle to be a puddle?’. Does the puddle begin with 1 molecule? 100? A millilitre? A gallon? Within our own species, we have numerous examples and states of consciousness, and that Human consciousness is not a simple has/has not. One only needs look as far as with autistic patients, who clearly have a high level of reasoning, but lack the ability to place themselves in another person’s frame of reference A common test for this is the Sally Anne test [1]

Almost any other evolutionary attribute are from similar quantitative differences, such as those that allow whales to endure long term hypoxia, or elephants to hear over distances of kilometres.

Human consciousness is represented on several lower levels by other species within the animal kingdom. Self awareness and complex communication are present within dolphins as well as elephants [2]

Intelligence & The Brain:

Numerous statistical studies performed on Humans showed a positive but weak correlation (0.3-0.6) between IQ/GMA results and Cranial size [3]. While the correllations are weak, the studies remain very consistent with large samples, it is clear that cranial capacity is in some way directly related to intelligence.

Much of the noise is of course, explained by environmental factors and other interfering factors, therefore the true relationship may well be stronger than has been found


From our ancestor Australopithecus afarensis to Homo Sapiens today, the brain size has increased from ~380–430 cm3 to a staggering 1130-1260 cm3 in Homo Sapiens. Our ancestor Australopithecus afarensis has a cranial size comparable to the modern chimpanzee ~393 cm3, and of course the difference in behaviour is astounding. The number of nerve cells is also quite substantial; the human’s having 87 billion neuropnes, more than ten times as many as the common chimpanzee.

While a simple nerve count is not going to resolve the dependency of consciousness on the brain, it does yield an important correlation.

We have a number of specimens of transitional fossils between Homo Sapiens and Australopithecus afarensis, and we observe a consistent increase in cranial capacity, a tripling to get our current capacity today.

Size (cm3)

Age (megaannum)

Australopithecus afarensis



Australopithecus africanus



Paranthropus boisei



Paranthropus robustus



Homo habilis



Homo rudolfensis



African Homo erectus



Another important point is the level of intelligence exhibited by our fellow species today is in contention with many of the human behaviors observed:

The most dramatic increase in brain size occurred with Homo erectus [4]. Where in a comparatively short period of time (>200,000 years), the cranial size doubled. It is thought that this dramatic jump in brain size was made possible only upon the advent of cooking, where pre-digestion of foods greately increased the quantity of energy we could gain from our foods. The human brain, almost less than 5% of the body mass, uses 25% of the bodies energy supply [5].

Considering the remainder of our bodies use 1500 calories a day just to maintain biostasis, it is clear why larger brains have not evolved anywhere else in the animal kingdom. They could not until they learned to cook, it is impossible to fuel such large brains in any other way.

Modern Species’ Intelligence:

We accept there are varying levels of consciousness within nature today. We can train chimpanzees to recognise and answer questions in sign language [1],furthermore, there is evidence that dogs are capable of rudimentary mathematics [6]. I will forward the assertion that the jump is not time, but in cranial capacity, that is the only significant thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.


I hope to expand on these more and deal with my opponent’s arguments in my rebuttal. I am sincirely sorry for the lack of quality in this one, I will try to be more personally organised in future.

Please do not pull any of your punches in your rebuttal!








Debate Round No. 2


Very insightful! Thank you for all that information, and indeed I believe we are zoning in on the central questions and key points. And on that note, I would like to say that perhaps my title for this debate is overly pretentious and strong. A more proper title should have been something like "Did Human Conciousness Arise Solely from Evolution?" Regardless I still would have picked the side I'm on.

I like your puddle analogy which correlated with the question "At what point does conciousness become human concioussness?"

May I propose a mark of reference to establish that 'point'? - When said conciousnesss asks its first question! (Some people would like to see the worlds first kiss, I would like to know the first question, I dont even care if it was answered. When and what was the very first question ever conceieved?)

Is it your argument then, that at some point along the quantitive steps, all life forms (if allowed to evolve) will attain, or emerge, the capacity to start asking questions? (Maybe not literally ALL lifeforms, for practical sake we can stick to 'advanced animals' if you wish [dolphins, apes, etc..) I will assert again my agreement with evolution pertaining to intellect, but resort back to my analogy, the intellect is gold, but reason (self-reflecting, introspective, and question asking) is the philosophers stone.

So you asked a practical, fair, and demanded question (at what point do you say conciousness becomes 'human conciousness?) My response: When a question is asked, an inquiry made. Is this acceptable? So please elaborate from this point.

Now, the capacity to ask a question, or make an inquiry, I have a hard time imagining arising gradually in an animal, but perhaps you have resources to enlighten me on the matter.

Now I imagine it can't help but be asked "Well if not by means of emergence? Then what else?"

How about, bestowment? Isn't it peculiar that we seemed to have elevated so quickly, compared to lifeforms who have seemingly stayed the same since the dinosaur age? (sharks, crocs)



Thanks Con,

I need to make another apology for this short reply, as I need to leave for Mother’s Day lunch soon!


While it would be foolish of me to dismiss this notion out of hand, as it is impossible to rule out intelligent design even if evolution was true on essentially every level, I do argue that such ideas are extraneous and unnecessary.

What is Conciousness?:

Pro makes a very simple statement on where/when consciousness arose:

“When said consciousness asks its first question!”

I must admit, in a black and white world, this would be a perfectly logical and rather elegant answer. Of course reality is not as clear cut. Let’s take a pair of animal behaviours we are quite familiar with:

A mother mammal calling it’s young

Mating rituals of various mammals

Neither of these behaviours is linguistically of course, but they all covey a scenario. One mammal needs information from the other mammal. A mother needs to locate her children, and male needs to find out of a female will be receptive or not. In both cases probing, or an ‘inquisition’ is made. I submit that this is but a reduction of the same mechanisms that could have led to the intelligence that asks abstract linguistic questions today.

These can be seen as non-linguistic ‘questions’ one would make to the other. Of course it’s debatable, and I will readily admit that instincts play a substantially larger role than complex thought in these cases. But that’s exactly the point, the ability to inquire is reducible to processes largely governed by non-thought processes.

If one looks at the instinctual behaviours of humans, sexuality, crying, blushing and most strikingly, facial expressions. These processes all utilize means of conveying information non-linguistically to our fellow species. Furthermore, none of these are linguistical means of communication either, but they carry substantial weight

Evolutionary Demand:

I had already discussed the effect of trade-offs in evolution, in particular with the brain. The brain an energy-expensive organ itself needs to convey significant benefit to offset the large energy cost of sustaining it. And this energy cost was only possible to fulfil in abundance upon the advent of fire & cooking >200,000 years ago [1], which dramatically increased the ability to absorb nutrients from the same foods. This may well have been the ‘quantum jump’ which provides the very sharp increase in brain size and intelligence of our ancestors.

When one looks at the history of Earth around 100,000 years ago, we were in our most recent period of glaciation, or the ‘Ice Age’ which stretched from 110,000-10,000 years ago. During this period there were abrupt changes within the ecosystem, with prey scarce and requirement for continual relocation. During this time period widespread use of fire was already prevailing however our own species was still under substantial stress.

70,000 years ago, a rapid freezing of Africa almost wiped out our ancestors according to the Toba catastrophe theory, which resulted in a population reduction to just 10,000. The ones who survived were likely the ones with the intelligence, communication and social structures required for this rapid relocation to southern Europe to occur [2][3].

While it is true that our fellow primates, including the chimpanzees and bonobos were in the same situation, our ecological niche had drifted. Our ancestors derived much more of their energy from hunting as opposed to vegetation; therefore the evolutionary adaptions necessary to sustain our ancestors would have been quite different.


I hope that I have shown so far that many of the things we attribute to consciousness are reducible and observable in our fellow species, and that intelligence is but a complex manifestation of such, brought on by a remarkably short period of evolution. Therefore I hold the resolution to be false.

And of course,

Happy Mother’s Day!!





Debate Round No. 3


Alrighty, so

I asked for extrapolation from cons point of view regarding using the moment of "asking a question, or making an enquiry" as a milestone along the gradual intellectual development of a creature that would indicate a quanititive progression towards a conciousness and awareness akin to our own (humankind). Which would further imply we obtained our own conciousness and its aspects by the same means.

He procured a couple examples: A mother calling for its young, and mating rituals. And further submits these scenarios are "but a reduction of the same mechanisms that could have led to the intelligence that asks abstract linguistic questions today. "

Quick Recap:
Pythagoras quote "Humankind (soul/conciousness) can be divided into three parts: Passion, Intellect, and Reason. Passion and Intellect are possessed by the other animals, but reason is for man alone" bolsters my point of view: (that there is an, dare i say - 'inherent', quality to our conciousness apart from the other animals "i.e. reason" that I argue cannot be attributed to evolution because the qualities of reason (inquiry, question asking, and discernment) does not emerge from the gradual advancedment of the animals intellect in accordance with evolutionary natural selective law.

I accept his submissions, and would like to add that searching for a lost mate is similar behavior of which im going to extrapolate from.

Now it is indeed a wonder, does the said mother actually ask herself "Where is my child, why can't I find my child?" Which would make possible a creative response? (indicating a birth to reason)
Or could it be merely be a systematic reaction whereas an instinctive protocol is followed given a particular circumstance (no child= call out, run around with eyes peeled, destroy potential threats (secure perimeter) etc.)
Which would mean only a conditioned response, although very much animate, is still just a cold machine like computer (brain) exercise of information processing.

What I would like to point to is the question of: If this same scenario happens over and over for a countless number of times across a countless number of lifetimes, across a countless number of species. Will the subject begin to reflect and think "How can I prevent from losing my child?" or "Should I just accept the loss of my mate as a cycle of life and become vital again?! (various animals, especially mammal-marine and birds, will change behavior radically after losing a mate, will look for them, stop eating, sometimes become lethargic till death, or even sometimes seemingly suicidal[depressed])
Now the reaction is the sign of intelligence, but reacting creatively to it is a sign of reason, which is still not apparent enough to me to be arising from advancing intelligence.


Thanks Pro.


My opponent makes the case that much of the intelligent behaviour in our fellow mammals are largely

It might be of interest to my opponent the attached videos, a few of many detailing the (limited, but present) problem-solving ability of our (second) closest species, the Chimpanzee.

Clearly our cousin species are capable of at least some basic level of insight, and that’s all I need to show in order to demonstrate our current intellect is a reducible quality accessible by evolution. They are adaptable to tasks that they have never encountered, capable of trial and error and learning from mistakes.

Much of this, as Pro rightly points out is purely instinctual, or lacking in any intellect, which is true. But do not forget that we humans are very much, or even mostly a product of our non-intellectual mental influences. No intellect governs our sexual attractions, what foods we find delicious, how to walk, how to open the door, or even how to juggle. They are largely the result of the brain recognising patterns and fitting the situation to the pattern – adjusting as we go along. Such are the reasons why tasks such as chess are easy for computers but walking is beyond a graduate-level AI project.

Human Evolution:

Another major factor involved in the development of intelligence (or the ‘quantum leap’) in humans is a mechanism for knowledge to be accumulated across generations. Humans are the only species to demonstrate this trait, where knowledge has a net positive (as opposed to zero) cumulative effect. What was the cause of this? Of course the answer is the development of physical recording and complex language. To get an accurate grasp of the what humans are we need to be able to compare humans who have not been brought up in a culture with language & recorded history and tradition. This of course is essentially non-existant in today’s society as humans form communities in even the longest isolated populations on earth, such as native americans.

Another important factor along this line of reasoning are grandparents [1][2] and increased human longevity. Human lifespans gradually increased over the past 100,000 years of evolution and this increase greatly increased the number of grandparents within any population of humans. Grandparents, besides the obvious familial benefits also brought intellectual benefits. Knowledge that would normally be lost from generation to generation (as would happen in our fellow primates) would have been greatly buffered from the presence of senior members of society.


The debate title “Attributing Human Consciousness to the Theory of Evolution is false and invalid” sets the BoP on Pro, and so far I have seen very little from the side of Pro to fulfil that burden. On the other hand I hope I have presented some positive reasons for believing that human consciousness, and all the things we associate with it are very much within reach of the products available within evolution, and perhaps to make us rethink what we regard as intelligence and human consciousness.

A tougher resolution to defend would be ‘Is consciousness possible via evolution’, but my opponent already concedes this much, therefore I dare say my opponent’s position is one that is very hard to justify given the available evidence.




Debate Round No. 4


The water in the tube was very impressive and satisfactory in convincing me of your point, “our current intellect is a reducible quality accessible by evolution”. Though this doesn’t really touch upon my argument that reason and intellect are two intrinsically different things, perhaps you disagree with that presupposition? (Which could possibly merit its own debate?)

Now, wouldn’t the quantum leap which arose from “complex” language and physical recording need to be preceded by another, smaller quantum leap? To explain how the positive ‘net’ accumulation began? How the physical recording began? And even if that was answered, wouldn’t that also require then a smaller beginning responsible for it as well?

I am glad you recognize I concede to the idea that we have ‘become awake’ or conscious, in the most elementary sense, by evolutionary means, but that our alleged dominance over the Earth and the animals was not an effect which arose from ‘advancing past them’ in some evolutionary Achilles and tortoise race of the intellect.

I liken this scenario to Zeno’s paradoxes; philosophical problems to support a doctrine that plurality, and change is mistaken or illusion like, especially motion.'s_paradoxes

To me, the model of evolution requires a dimension, a line representing the passage of time “from one moment to the next” with points along measuring change in distance across that line, which can then be used gauge a quantum measurement pertaining to increased intellect, or further adapted or conditioned responses.

Is not fair to think of said intellect as the arrow, changing, or moving through time seemingly, yet not logically, as argued by Zeno with his flying arrow?



Thanks Pro.

Closing Statement:

I would like to close by returning to Pro’s original contention:

“The difference between the nature of our (humankind) consciousness (or the self-aware/question asking mind) and that of those deemed ‘lower’ animals (or creatures) is not of a quantitative difference, but of a qualitative difference.“

Satisfaction (or lack thereof) of the BoP

Pro holds the Burden of Proof in this debate, the burden of demonstrating that ‘attributing human consciousness to the theory of evolution is false and invalid’. However throughout this debate Pro has not provided the reasons nor evidence to demonstrate that this is true. Pro has presented several thoughts and ideas in which it might be difficult to explain where human consciousness cannot be explained by a result of evolutionary processes.

However he has never, not once, in this debate actually satisfied the positive burden of demonstrating this. A suitable demonstration would have been a philosophical or mechanistic prohibition which prevents human consciousness from arising via evolution. We haven’t seen any such thing in this exchange.

Positive Anti-Resolution Arguments:

In my own responses I have detailed the evolutionary pressures that would have contributed in the causation of our need to develop larger and more intelligent brains, and ultimately why we are as intelligent as we are today. Much of this comes down to our history, as well as ‘quantum leaps’ which greatly accelerated the process, including the advent of cooking and the hold of language and written communication.

Further still I have demonstrated that many of the attributes we associate with purely human consciousness are present albeit less impressively in other members of the animal kingdom, most notable in the Chimpanzee, although others have been studied.

Therefore I hold that the resolution is negated, and that I have even put together a reasonable case for the flipside of the resolution (that consciousness was an attribute of evolution) to be true.

Final Remarks:

I would like to thank Pro for this unique debate, as well as his excellent conduct and polite demeanour. I hope to cross swords with him in future, best regards.

Debate Round No. 5
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Sswdwm 7 years ago
Thanks for following through Pro. I am rather exhausted after those 5 rounds. Very very exhausted. Just glad it's over now haha.

I think you need to be more aggressive and less of a Mr. Niceguy during debates. Definitely, yes.

Best of luck!
Posted by Anatta 7 years ago
Sorry it's short,
This wasn't the debate I intended it to be, this takes more upkeep than I realized! But you've done a great job and deserve to have this debate actually cross the finish line without a forfeiture. Not that I give up my contention, but i realize the subject matter we're touching on can be 'factorized', and should be, simply to debate upon the fundamental points first, wad up the conclusions and ascend the argument to more and more general plains through a succession of debates.
Factors at the top of my head
Model Of Mind
The particularly relevant aspect of evolution expounded ( i think we did a good job with this actually already)
A common philosophical ground upon which to share our different perspectives etc..
Things like that.
Posted by Sswdwm 7 years ago
Posted by Sswdwm 7 years ago
Ok :-) Make it a good one!
Posted by Anatta 7 years ago
will finish in the morning
Posted by Anatta 7 years ago
Just a one day delay would be plenty! Yeah I should have foresaw this dillema (fairly commit to debates for the sake of quality information sharing and learning vs. focusing on work time during the week (full time on call IT), especially because I found this site wasting time at work! ha, i can get away with it sometime, just not all the time, and thats the main problem.
Posted by Sswdwm 7 years ago
I can delay the posting of my next round for another 2 days if you like, that way you have the end of the weekend to finish the next one.
Posted by Sswdwm 7 years ago
That's okay, I am just glad you did not forfeit :-). Good thing I sent the message! Haha.
Posted by Anatta 7 years ago
or round I mean
Posted by Anatta 7 years ago
damn sorry about that, i only had 40 minutes when a ddo email notified me of your comment, tough to stay on this during the week. it is not everything i wanted to say but i think i ended up squeezing my question and point at the end. ill be more dedicated the next couple rounds.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Seeginomikata 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: This debate was in con hands starting from round two, when pro accepted evolution as a valid truth. Starting from there, it is nearly impossible to form a logical reason for why humans in particular would be exempt from evolutionary pressures to develop higher consciousness. Really well done debate on both sides. A nice polite and intellectual debate is always music to my... eyes.

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