Half a second to consciousness

Freedom of choice is making a comeback in biology, and finding support in the writings of Darwin on sexual selection.

Dr. Prum wants to push evolutionary biologists to re-examine their assumptions about utility and beauty, objectivity and subjectivity. But he also wants to reach the public with a message that is clear whether or not you dip into the technical aspects of evolution. The yearning to pick your own mate is not something that began with humans, he says. It can be found in ducks, pheasants and other creatures.

“Freedom of choice matters to animals,” he said recently on a birding trip to a beach near his office in New Haven. “We’ve been explaining away desire rather than actually trying to understand or explain it. That’s one of the biggest shifts that the book is about.”

The half second between perception of "meaningfulness in the environment" as a subconscious experience - is when the living thing observes its own inner sense of and brings it to conscious awareness.