Source: Wikimedia Commons | Nobu Tamura People have long pondered what consciousness actually is. Consciousness seems very different from other biological functions—like some sort of nonmaterial essence within our heads. Thoughts and feelings seem ethereal, untethered from anything physical. Self-awareness seems like a phenomenon utterly divorced from anything that could possibly be produced by cells comprised of physical particles. People used to think of life itself that way too, and many still do. But biologists solved the enigma of what makes things alive mid-way through the twentieth century, the foundations of that understanding having been built over the preceding century. Before that, living things were believed to possess some sort of animating essence that accounted for their difference from inanimate matter. People could not imagine how the same material particles that comprise inanimate matter could be arranged in such a way as to make something alive , without adding that special, mysterious nonmaterial essence. Let alone how inanimate matter could organize itself in such clever and intricate ways through entirely unguided, spontaneous processes. People's intuitions tell them that surely such complexity requires an intelligent designer. So much for intuition . 1 Now, in the present century, science is turning its attention… Read full this story
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