How did the network of neurons that makes up the human brain give rise to the human mind? How did the brain develop the capacity for thought, self-awareness, functional autonomy, language, and understanding of the outside world? In this installment of the Essential Knowledge series, Zoltan Torey provides a clear and understandable summary of the evolutionary innovation that gave rise to the human intellect.
Torey reconstructs the series of events that led to the evolution of Homo sapiens from Homo erectus using evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and linguistics insights. The new (“off-line”) internal response system, via which the brain accesses itself and subsequently creates a selection mechanism for mentally created behavior alternatives, is described as the underpinning of the emergent mind. Torey contends that this functional development explains how the animal brain’s “consciousness” evolved into a reflecting and self-accessible state or how the human brain became a conscious mind. Contrary to animal perception, consciousness is a composite process rather than a single phenomenon. In his description, Torey explains how protolanguage developed into language, how a brain subsystem for the emerging mind was created, and why these advances are imperceptible to introspection. He contends that we see the functional autonomy of the brain as free choice.
According to Torey, awareness had to develop once life started since it served as the informational basis for the brain’s behavioral reaction. According to him, unlike other critics, consciousness is not a recently acquired “quality,” “cosmic principle,” “circuitry arrangement,” or “epiphenomenon,” but rather an essential part of how the living system functions.