Richard Dawkins on Consciousness

909 Words4 Pages
Richard Dawkins on Things The British philosopher Richard Dawkins is well-known not only for his strong advocacy of atheism, but also for his materialistic view of the mind. Dawkins sees an individual as consisting of no more than physical extension, in particular noting the extent to which humans are merely carriers of genetic data. He writes, in his 1995 work River out of Eden, that “There is no spirit-driven life force, no throbbing, heaving, pullulating, protoplasmic, mystic jelly. Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information”. Dawkins seeks a naturalistic explanation of mind and consciousness in terms of Darwinian evolution. The struggle for survival between competing organisms favours those that possess a selective advantage, some gene whose phenotype makes them more likely to be able to pass on their genetic information. Naturally, organisms with the most advantageous genes will prosper & reproduce. Dawkins refers to genetic material as selfish insofar as DNA will not hesitate to sacrifice the life of its host organism. For Dawkins, an individual is no more than the totality of one’s genes; this stems from the ideology that a biological organism is simply an expression of its genes. There is not, Dawkins argues, any self or soul which exists independently of one’s genes. Dawkins makes the case that consciousness is not some ethereal entity which transcends an organism, but that it is simply a by-product of evolution. In accordance with natural selection, Dawkins notes that organisms with greater intelligence will prosper as they possess a selective advantage. By genetic mutations, it is possible for organisms to be born with larger brains and hence greater intelligence. These organisms, thanks to their selective advantage, will multiply and eventually replace the previous, less intelligent, organisms. As such, species will evolve
Open Document