"Even though mathematics can describe most everything about how the universe works, it doesn't provide an explanation for how the universe came to exist in the first place."
Alex would probably say it's turtles all the way down. I personally have no idea. Maybe science doesn't yet have any explanation for the universe's origin, but the only problem I see is there is no alternative process to get a good answer. I personally think that spirituality primarily gives you a feeling of knowledge, and if it IS correct, it's just by coincidence.
"Science has given no explanation for my experience of conscious awareness that makes any sense to me at all."
Consciousness is pretty funky. A self-aware chemical process boggles the mind. However, it boggles the mind less than any other theory. Before I go any further, though, I need to ask you something: do you believe in free will, and why do you believe that?
"Science has given no explanation whatsoever for the need for sleep, yet it is one of the most impactful requirements for life (at least for mine) and seems to be in direct contradiction to what evolution would predict."
Sleep is funky, too. Though I don't see how our ignorance of sleep defends the position of a driving force. I can see a few possibilities of our need for sleep:
1) Our brains cannot function at the high level of energy that consciousness requires. We need to recharge our batteries.
2) Our brains need time to sort through all the data they recieve on a certain day, and they can't do that effeciently with our consciousness in the way.
3) The day/night cycle. I always thought it was interesting how we tend to sleep all night, and be awake all day. I don't think it is either societal or a coincidence. Night is big and dark and cold and scary. If you don't have a need to keep a low profile and hunker down for a while, you may get chomped on.
4) It's a design flaw. Before you say that contradicts evolution, let me say that we already have design flaws. I consider our trachea and esophagus sharing an input to be a flaw, for example.
5) Sleep promotes society. If you nod off in the middle of a forest filled with predators, you may get eaten. But if you get together with others of your kind, the chances decrease. So, if a being didn't need to sleep, it would have less need to cooperate with fellow beings. Those that did conglomerate thrived, and passed their genes on.
6) Sleep promotes sex. If you didn't need to sleep, and never needed to bed down for the night, you would have less of an immediate urge to, uh..... snuggle.
I just made these up a half hour ago, but I think some of them hold water.
"There doesn't seem to me to have been sufficient time for evolution to have created the life forms that exist,
Why don't you think there is enough time? Doesn't the fossil record convince you that there was? And if not, what happened?
"In my observation of the behavior of animals, including people, it seems to make a lot more sense to me that there is some "driver" at work animating the animal than that the behavior is driven simply by the logic in the electro-chemical processes at work in the animal's brain. You and I discussed this in the thread about What drives a helicopter? some time back,"
Where is this driver? Where is the cockpit?
I think my example of a helicopter back then was poor. I've come up with a better one: language. It is self-improving, and it is not really sentiently designed (there is sentience involved but not totally life-directed, just like evolution.)
Back in the stone age, they probably had a certain grunt mean "stone," another grunt mean "mammoth," another grunt mean "rain," and so on. Basic nouns to describe basic things about the world. When this became insufficient, verbs probably were added: run, eat, hunt, etc. Then adjectives, then linking words to combine ideas, ad infinitum, until today we have reached the point that our military calls dead enemies "Decommisioned agressor quanta," and we have several equally developed, equally complex languages around.
Go back a century and say "decommisioned agressor quanta" and they might understand what you're talking about. Go back to 1700 and they might pick up a part of a word or two. Go back to 1000 and they would have no idea. Not only would they have no idea, but they may claim that the complexity of the language you speak and all it deatail could never be mastered by simple humans in just a few hundred years. But all we need is time, and it happens practically on its own. It is self-improving and evolutionary.
So, while language is tied to life, it is not directed by it. If you want a word to describe something, you make one up, and the language expands. If you fall in love with someone who has great genes, you have children, and the gene pool expands. Life drives itself.
What do you think?