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Why do human beings feel the need to have a consciousness?

There are many ideas and theories surrounding the topic of consciousness. What is it? Where does it reside? Do have one at all?
I am more interested in why humans feel the need for there to be a consciousness, and why we feel the need to differentiate ourselves from other animals.

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    Oct 27 2011: Yeah I think consciousness is a bad word if you're looking for one that differenciates us from other animals.
    Many species pass the mirror test, for instance, and have complexe empathy and several levels of understandings of particular situations.
    So let's drop this term. Or let's stick consciousness to passing the mirror test. Anyone who knows that the spot on the reflection corresponds to a spot on itself should be considered conscious.

    So what does differenciate us from other animals? It's our creative search for meaning.
    We're the only species left with this intellectual power. We see the moon at night and elaborate explanations of its presence, because of this quest for purpose. We see a guy hitting his hand with a hammer and figure out what he's actually trying to achieve, without ever having seen him hit a nail. We just assume that hand-hitting is not the man's purpose and that the cause is likely to be accidental.
    So this is what I think.

    Why do we feel the need to differentiate ourselves from other animals? Because we cannot survive if we behave like other apes. We need culture, we need our unique human features. Thus these features have been celebrated. We'd be gone without them.
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      Oct 27 2011: I agree. This is a definition issue. You first have to define consciousness before you can answer this question. I found a good definition that works universally. Consciousness is an awareness of your environment. That means even an electron is conscious since it can find a positive pole in its environment. So humans are conscious just like everything else. This is why we talk of a “higher consciousness” We are more aware of our environment than an ape, who is more aware than a ant, etc. etc.
      I don’t believe consciousness is something you get. It’s a fundamental law of the universe. It’s what makes it “alive”...
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        Oct 27 2011: I'm curious to know how you would define living, versus non-living.
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          Oct 27 2011: By the definition above everything is alive except the inverse of everything ie. nothing. Anything that searches for a balance is alive. I know this doesn't agree with newtonian science but then I think science doesn't want to answer consciousness.

          I think the universe before the big bang was not alive. It was perfectly smooth and no entropy at all. There was no imbalance. Perfect balance implies no movement and is static and is akin to nothing. The birth of the universe was also the birth of life. Life didn't suddenly appear out of no where. That's ridiculous. So it must have always been there.
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        Oct 27 2011: So alright, everything in the universe is alive. What is the difference, then, between a mouse and a dead mouse?

        And second, what is the difference between a monkey and a monkey scultpture?
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        Oct 27 2011: What, that's it?
        This is how you understand the world, and this gives you a model to get around with?

        You must at least have categories...
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          Oct 27 2011: It's an elegant paradigm I think. I've looked and a lot of philosophies and theories and I haven't found another that is pro life.
          The only other valid paradigm is the current Newtonian model. There is no consciousness. There is no life. There is no purpose. You don't have to explain something that doesn't exist. But it's a bit too negative to my liking.
          I say everything is alive and they say everything is dead. It's the same thing but a different point of view
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        Oct 27 2011: No it's not. In my view some of the stuff is much alive. But I believe in biology, which asks of me to label vehicules for replicators as living things. These labels allow me to understand things better, that's all.
        It tells me why stones don't evolve the way rabbits do.
        It's just names. And on a certain level, both are alike, but still it helps.
        Or you try it, with your theories. Explain anything about the animal kingdom, and you'll see the problems you face.
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          Oct 27 2011: It's a question of balance. If you put rabbits on a cage with endless food and no predators, i.e. removing survival of the fittest, then their evolution will also stop.
          Stone has no need to evolve. It's in balance. Unless it's dropped in a pool of other chemicals and heat that forces an imbalance. Then new elements will "evolve". Maybe that's exactly what happened in the primordial soup. Higher life forms is just a consequence of a new balancing point...
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        Oct 27 2011: No their evolution won't ever stop. For one thing they'll lose their ability to run, since it'b be a waste of energy to build strong legs. Same goes with vision, hearing, etc...
        But then you'd still have male competition and females would sexually select the "fittest". The only way it would stop evolving is if you make series of clones yourself and select out variation.
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          Oct 27 2011: Haha! Huge fat bunnies! Point taken. Though there is examples in nature were I've heard them say that a species has not evolved for thousands of years. Dodo for example. Now I stand corrected here because I'm going on things I've seen on TV and not researched. I believe any species will in time find a natural equilibrium with it's environment. A point in time were it's evolution will stagnate.
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    • Oct 27 2011: Temporarily forget what?