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Unsolved Problems in Biology/Consciousness

The topic of consciousness is a huge, huge field. Some of it involves religion, so people with various religious beliefs may have completely different opinions about consciousness, and their books, explanations, and teachings will be different. Most people, for example, believe in God, while some people do not, so they will have different opinions about whether God created consciousness.

This article was written by an author who does not believe in God, and does believe that Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution is true (some people believe in both at the same time).

The first lifeforms were bacteria, which came into being 4 billion years ago. A long series of evolutions brought humans into being 200,000 years ago. Within those billions of years in between, millions of species evolved. All lifeforms, including humans, evolved from bacteria.

People who study consciousness ask questions like, "Are chimpanzees conscious? How about bacteria?" No one knows for sure because the definition of 'consciousness' is a subjective matter of opinion.

Some people, including scientists, wonder whether computers will ever be advanced enough to have consciousness. Some say 'yes'; some say 'no'.

Therefore, many professors have devoted their lives to trying to figure out what consciousness is first.

Some of these professors are neuroscientists -- they study the science of the brain. As an example, some neuroscientists study the brains of people while they are unconscious -- for example, while they are sleeping. One of the many ways they do this is by using a method called electroencephalography, abbreviated EEG. There are several different kinds of neuroscientists who study consciousness -- cognitive neuroscientists, neurologists, neuroradiologists, computational neuroscientists, theoretical neuroscientists, and others.

Other kinds of professors who study consciousness are philosophers, particularly those who specialize in the philosophy of mind. They ask questions such as, "How does a part of one's body -- the brain -- produce something as complicated as consciousness, something as complicated as human thinking?" Many philosophers of mind specialize in a field called cognitive science, which is geared toward the question of whether advanced computers will someday have consciousness. Cognitive science as a field has only existed since the 1970's, but all the sciences and philosophies related to cognitive science can be traced back to ancient times.

Some philosophers studying consciousness today are David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, and Ned Block.