Turing Indistinguishability and the Blind Watchmaker

Harnad, Stevan (2002) Turing Indistinguishability and the Blind Watchmaker In, Fetzer, J (eds.) Evolving Consciousness. John Benjamins pp. 3-18.

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Many special problems crop up when evolutionary theory turns, quite naturally, to the question of the adaptive value and causal role of consciousness in human and nonhuman organisms. One problem is that -- unless we are to be dualists, treating it as an independent nonphysical force -- consciousness could not have had an independent adaptive function of its own, over and above whatever behavioral and physiological functions it "supervenes" on, because evolution is completely blind to the difference between a conscious organism and a functionally equivalent (Turing Indistinguishable) nonconscious "Zombie" organism: In other words, the Blind Watchmaker, a functionalist if ever there was one, is no more a mind reader than we are. Hence Turing-Indistinguishability = Darwin-Indistinguishability. It by no means follows from this, however, that human behavior is therefore to be explained only by the push-pull dynamics of Zombie determinism, as dictated by calculations of "inclusive fitness" and "evolutionarily stable strategies." We are conscious, and, more important, that consciousness is piggy-backing somehow on the vast complex of unobservable internal activity -- call it "cognition" -- that is really responsible for generating all of our behavioral capacities. Hence, except in the palpable presence of the irrational (e.g., our sexual urges) where distal Darwinian factors still have some proximal sway, it is as sensible to seek a Darwinian rather than a cognitive explanation for most of our current behavior as it is to seek a cosmological rather than an engineering explanation of an automobile's behavior. Let evolutionary theory explain what shaped our cognitive capacity (Steklis & Harnad 1976; Harnad 1996, but let cogni ive theory explain our resulting behavior.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Address: Amsterdam
Venue - Dates: Evolving Consciousness, 2002-01-01
Keywords: consciousness, evolution, turing test, functionalism
Organisations: Web & Internet Science
ePrint ID: 257713
Date :
Date Event
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2003
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 22:49
Further Information:Google Scholar
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/257713

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