This essay is an attempt to account for adaptive behavior and consciousness in the most concrete manner possible, addressing their embodiments throughout phylogenesis. The focus is on their biological costs, not particularly their benefits. The goal is to understand consciousness biologically while eschewing mentalism, anthropocentrism, and teleonomic enthusiasm. Throughout evolution adaptive behavior and consciousness have been embodied as catalytic molecular cascades, no more, no less. As these cascades became increasingly complex in particular ecological niches many new biological problems accrued for living organisms. Evolutionary resolution of these problems has been varied, incomplete, and fragile, including in the human species.