Welcome to the jungle

How come there are minds? And how is it possible for minds to ask and answer this question?

The short answer is that minds evolved and created thinking tools that eventually enabled minds to know how minds evolved, and even to know how these tools enabled them to know what minds are. What thinking tools? The simplest, on which all the others depend in various ways, are spoken words, followed by reading, writing, and arithmetic, followed by navigation and mapmaking, apprenticeship practices, and all the concrete devices for extracting and manipulating information that we have invented: compass, telescope, microscope, camera, computer, the Internet, and so on. These in turn fill our lives with technology and science, permitting us to know many things not known by any other species. We know there are bacteria; dogs don’t; dolphins don’t; chimpanzees don’t. Even bacteria don’t know there are bacteria. Our minds are different. It takes thinking tools to understand what bacteria are, and we’re the only species (so far) endowed with an elaborate kit of thinking tools.

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The General Theory of Evolution

The word ‘evolution’ originally means ‘unfolding’. Evolution is a story, a narrative of how things change. It is a word freighted with many other meanings, of particular kinds of change. It implies the emergence of something from something else. It has come to carry a connotation of incremental and gradual change, the opposite of sudden revolution. It is both spontaneous and inexorable. It suggests cumulative change from simple beginnings. It brings the implication of change that comes from within, rather than being directed from without. It also usually implies change that has no goal, but is open-minded about where it ends up. And it has of course acquired the very specific meaning of genetic descent with modification over the generations in biological creatures through the mechanism of natural selection.

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