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Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul Paperback – July 1, 1995
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Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Francis Crick was a thorough going empiricist and he strongly believed that the experimental method was the only way of successfully tackling the problem of consciousness. Along with his close collaborator, Christof Koch, Crick chose visual awareness (rather than say, self-awareness) as the main point of attack. The reason for this is because the visual system is relatively well understood and much easier to study in the laboratory.
Visual processing is an extremely complex business. Essentially, the visual system has to create a fairly high-fidelity representation of the environment (a model) from an array of heterogeneous light patches falling onto the retina. A staggering number of computational processes need to be performed in order for you to become aware of the final output. These processes operate unconsciously, in massively parallel streams. So, what we finally become aware of (our model) is the end result of a great many hidden computations. Much has been learned about the details in which the various features of a visual scene are decomposed and processed, but what remains a mystery is how we ultimately see something (i.e., become visually aware of it). As Crick says, what is required is an account of our "explicit, multilevel, symbolic interpretation of a visual scene."
"The Astonishing Hypothesis" does not provide anything like a Crick-Koch `theory' of consciousness.Read more ›
Francis Crick plays the quintessential scientist in this book. He puts forward a hypothesis about human consciousness that closely mirrors the philosophies of John Searle: there is no mind-body problem. There is only the body. You, your soul, is basically a complex pattern of neurons in your brain.
Naturally, gathering supporting evidence for such a hypothesis is quite a daunting task. This book does not provide ultimate proof, nor ultimate answers. Rather it presents a large body of promising and highly interesting anecdotal evidence. Since its a huge subject, Crick focuses mainly on how vision affects consciousness. He discusses a good part about the human visual cortex, and neural network theory in computer science.
The book is filled with fascinating stories about people with brain trauma, and how it affected their behavior, their personality... their SOUL.
Did you know that there is a form of blindness, where the people don't know they are blind? Did you know that human free will is probably located in the anterior cingulate sulcus?
If Crick is correct, this scientific journey to understand the soul is a long one: it might take a century. This book is the first step on a very, very long journey, and it might not even be correct. Readers and reviewers must keep this in mind.
To emphasize again, its a HYPOTHESIS. Not a THEORY. So don't expect a ton of supporting evidence. Just a bunch of good ideas, some compelling data, and a good direction for future research.
Closely connected to this difficulty is his refusal to countenance the very question of what consciousness actually is. Of course, not doing so makes his investigation of visual perception as a `mode' of consciousness much more plausible. If one explicitly refuses to define what is under investigation, then investigating almost any related phenomena will do. Unfortunately, this mindset will not actually serve to advance the enterprise very far. Crick uses the glib analogy of a battle: in war, he notes, one will not get far trying to define what a battle is when what is needed are troops and strategy. It should go without saying that this analogy is so deeply flawed as to be useless, except for its intended rhetorical purpose. There is no need to define the battle because that is clearly understood by all out the outset; the same can hardly be said of consciousness. If one does not know what the battle objective is, fighting it well becomes a lot harder. And that is the unfortunate plight of this book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
JUST A LOT OF GUESSING, PLUS: WRITTEN IN 1994; A LOT HAS BEEN DISCOVERED SINCE THEN.
Imagine someone trying to *guess* how your PC works inside--NOT POSSIBLE TO EVEN COME... Read more
A little bit dated but interesting to see how the greatest molecular biologist was astonished by NeurosciencePublished 4 months ago by Owen P Hamill
Lame attempt by Dr. Crick to obtain more funding for his research, the book leaves many questions unanswered and leaves the reader thinking "well, why did he have to write a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Irvin C. Gavidor
Another book that delves into science and religion and it's interfaces.
But Crick does not analyze what he's trying to define. Read more
A very rational exploration of the mind but it has to be read in concert with a philosophical exploration of why we ask such questions.Published 18 months ago by Egidijus Jakulis