Although the origin of self-referential consciousness is unknown, it can be argued that the instantiation of self-reference was the commencement of the living state as phenomenal experientiality. As self-referential cognition is demonstrated by all living organisms, life can be equated with the sustenance of cellular homeostasis in the continuous defense of 'self'. It is proposed that the epicenter of 'self' is perpetually embodied within the basic cellular form in which it was instantiated. Cognition-Based Evolution argues that all of biological and evolutionary development represents the perpetual autopoietic defense of self-referential basal cellular states of homeostatic preference. The means by which these states are attained and maintained is through self-referential measurement of information and its communication. The multicellular forms, either as biofilms or holobionts, represent the cellular attempt to achieve maximum states of informational distinction and energy efficiency through individual and collective means. In this frame, consciousness, self-consciousness and intelligence can be identified as forms of collective cellular phenotype directed towards the defense of fundamental cellular self-reference.