September 12, 2019



How we evolved to have
reason, consciousness, and free will

by Kenneth R. Miller.
Simon & Schuster, 2018
(i-viii, 294 pages)

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note = A telltale gene: use ideas and picture of yolk sac at 31-33 days of human embryo development (40-43)

note = Daniel Fairbanks' book: Relics of Eden and Evolving: the Human Effect and Why It Matters (44)

note = Denial’s burden: use entire 2 paragraphs about the fact (44)

note = NANOG GENE = name from Celtic of eternal youth and vitality proves we share genetic info [kinship and history] with closest relatives to human species deep within us (47)

note = Evolution based on our genome research (50-51)

note = use whole last paragraph of section: "Common descent is not a fanciful guess fashioned from the desires of secularists to undermine their faith or destroy Western civilization." (50)

note = Denial’s burden [of evolution] (50-51)

note =use entire short paragraphs to explain intellectual burden of denying human evolution (50-51)


note = A wonderful accident: how the Pikaia found in the Burgess formation in British Columbia during the Cambrian period from about 530 million years ago represents our own major group or phylum = Chordate (71)

note = Stephen Jay Gould’s book, Wonderful Life, and the randomness that determined that Pikaia survived while thousands of other life forms became extinct (71-72)

note = Henry Gee’s book: The Accidental Species, argues that humans are not uniquely significant as much as accidentally special (72-73)

note = Gee’s conclusion that the Hollywood version of storytelling with humans on top is a misreading of Darwinian evolution by descent (74)

note = Telos ["purpose"] regained (74-80)

note =What can we now make of the mystery of our own existence, except to say that it is no longer a mystery? (75)

note = It is far more accurate to say that we evolved with nature.” (75)

note = Neil Shubin's book: Your Inner Fish. use comment related to the section in this book about "Our Inner Mammal": also from book, Your Inner Fish: (bottom of 119 and top half of page 120) describing the basis of our nervous system adapted from the fragile plan of the fish (119-120)

note = Hardwired (121-123)

[2] Atoms that think: use middle of 124 that relates human nervous system with transisters and wiring of a computer (123-126)

[3] Ghosts and Dark Glasses (126-129)

[4] Darwin’s Kluge (129-131)

[5] Wallace’s cathedral (131-137)

[6] Spearing catfish (137-139)

[7] Am I a computer? (139-146)

6) CONSCIOUSNESS (147-174)

Concluding Statement in Chapter on Consciousness (174)

"We need not worry that our status as creatures of evolution degrades the reality of conscious experience, reduces human thought and logic to the meaningless movements of atoms and molecules, or renders pointless the great achievements of human art and culture." (174)

"And we certainly do not need the claim of mystery to find genuine humanity in the workings of the human mind." (174)

"Evolution has shaped the conscious self, to be sure, but it has shaped it in a most remarkable way. It has given us perceptions so refined that we have become aware not only of our surroundings, but of ourselves as well." (174)

"It [evolution] has also given us the motivation to consciously seek to understand the life within us and the [mental] tools to do so." (174)

Introductory Sections in Chapter on Consciousness

[1] My movie (148-150)

[2] Who made the movie? (150-152)

[3] The not-so-easy problem (152-)

[4] The hard problem (155-156)

[5] A problem for evolution? (160-164)

[6] Matter to mind (164-167)

[7] Consciousness evolves (167-174)

"The first step in approaching these questions is to realize that consciousness itself is not a property of either molecules or cells, any more than life is a property of the carbon atoms in that candy bar I just ate. Matter itself does not become alive. Rather, certain groupings of matter are capable of generating the tangled complexity of a self-sustaining process [that] we call life." (168)

"Consciousness, similarly, is not a property of matter or even a property of individual cells. In a way analogous to life itself, consciousness is a process generated by the hugely complex interactions of highly active cells within the brain and associated nervous tissue. Consciousness, therefore, is something that matter does, not something that matter is. (168)

"The activities of the brain, including perception and consciousness, are based in the workings of its cellular components, and explicable in purely scientific terms." (170-171)

"Nervous systems react to stimuli by creating representations of those stimuli in the only ways available to living cells. In the brain, these are nerve impulses, rapid changes in ion flows, and more long-lasting changes in cellular connections." (169-170)

"Think, for example, of the 'grid cells' that become organized into a multidimensional 'map,' a neural representation of a complex space in the 'real' world. It is no revelation that a tiny cluster of grid cells is not the same as the real-world space it represents. But the discovery of these cells showed how the brain constructs a functional cellular representation of such a space and explains how neurons produce a 'sense of place' that helps us navigate through the real world." (170)


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