One of the hardest things to get smart people to do, whether philosophers or scientists, is to confess the hard limits to our knowledge. One thing well beyond the limits is what is called 'the hard problem' of consciousness: that is, why does it feel like we're conscious at all?
If we don't call it a miracle, it's not clear what else we might call it.
[H]ere we are, a gaudy efflorescence of consciousness, staggeringly improbable in light of everything we know about the reality that contains us.The thing about the hard problem isn't that we don't know how to answer it. The important thing is that we can't even put firm brackets around what an answer would look like.
There are physicists and philosophers who would correct me. They would say that if there are an infinite number of universes, as in theory there could be, then creatures like us would be very likely to emerge at some time in one of them. But to say this is only to state the fact of our improbability in other terms....
The universe passed through its unimaginable first moment, first year, first billion years, wresting itself from whatever state of nonexistence, inflating, contorting, resolving into space and matter, bursting into light. Matter condenses, stars live out their generations. Then, very late, there is added to the universe of being a shaped stick or stone, a jug, a cuneiform tablet. They appear on a tiny, teetering, lopsided planet, and they demand wholly new vocabularies of description for reality at every scale. What but the energies of the universe could be expressed in the Great Wall of China, the St. Matthew Passion? For our purposes, there is nothing else. Yet language that would have been fully adequate to describe the ages before the appearance of the first artifact would have had to be enlarged by concepts like agency and intention, words like “creation,” that would query the great universe itself. Might not the human brain, that most complex object known to exist in the universe, have undergone a qualitative change as well? If my metaphor only suggests the possibility that our species is more than an optimized ape, that something terrible and glorious befell us—if this is merely another fable, it might at least encourage an imagination of humankind large enough to acknowledge some small fragment of the mystery we are.