What caused you to have that improbable shot at being born and developing consciousness in this universe?

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Physicists have a reductionist approach to the universe that sees causation (outside the quantum realm) as linear: effects have causes and are predictable and inexorable.

In systems biology, biologists have a more integrated approach that sees causation as reciprocal and more complex. According to the book, Systems Biology – Cambridge University Press:

Unlike the physicochemical sciences, biology is subject to dual causality or dual causation. Biology is governed not only by the natural laws but also by genetic programs. Thus, while biological functions obey the natural laws, their functions are not predictable by the natural laws alone. Biological systems function and evolve under the confines of the natural laws according to basic biological principles, such as the generation of diversity and natural selection. The natural laws can be described based on physicochemical principles and used to define the constraints under which organisms must operate. How organisms operate within these constraints is a function of their evolutionary history and survival.

The application of dual (or multiple or reciprocal) causation to neurological functions (memory, analysis, forethought/planning, etc.) opens up potentials for causality that are impossible with the linear causation of 'physicochemical' processes (the causation of inanimate matter). Essentially, these potentials represent the difference between reaction and interaction with causality. Instead of the binary cause and effect unfolding in lockstep with the unidirectional arrow of time, reciprocal causation between neurological functions can result in causes leading to multiple effects or indefinitely delayed effects, or recursive effects that completely transform the possibilities of causality in intelligent human beings.

As the excerpt, above, from Systems Biology explains, we are all the while constrained by the linear causality of physics and operate within a scope of potential determined by evolution and the survival instinct. That scope of potential can be thought of as identity. We are identity-driven intelligent human beings. Our individual abilities and skills and limitations define our scope of potential.

I call this identity-driven intelligence, 'self-determinism'. In simplistic terms, it's a limited form of free will in which we determine our own paths into the future and adjust those paths, as needed, along the way. To do this concept justice, you should read Free Will (of sorts) Without Dualism for a full explanation.

What caused you to have that improbable shot at being born and developing consciousness in this universe?

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