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Scientific explanation of free will?

Mike Taffe mtaffe at psy.ucsd.edu
Fri Nov 11 14:33:27 EST 1994

In article <39u3ck$sok at geraldo.cc.utexas.edu>,
Tai-Wu Chiang <twchiang at utxvms.cc.utexas.edu> wrote:
>There seems a interesting book concern about this topic:
>"The astonishing hypothesis : the scientific search for the soul." by      
>          Crick, Francis, 1916- / New York 1994                                 

I don't know if you are going from the title or have actually read this book
but I have to disagree.  I hate to dis Francis but the book struggles to find
a compromise between reaching the lay (and I mean completely uninformed lay(
audience while not boring the neuroscience community. I think that it fails
for a couple of reasons.  
	The book tends to concentrate on the visual systems as a model of what
we know about neurological bases for cognitive processing--a good idea.
Unfortunately, this sort of info is beaten into *all* u-grad and grads who
take courses even remotely related to the topic.  The outcome is that Crick's
"evidence" sections are boring for the neuroscience audience because there is
very little new stuff here.  Yet, at the same time, later in the book, some of
the description of experiments and techniques seems to get down to a level of
minutia that may loose the lay audience. (This lay audience having been
attracted by the nature of Crick's introductory remarks and indeed, the
general simplicity of the "astonishing hypothesis".)
	My most crucial objection to Crick's approach in this book has to do
with the rather unastonishing nature of his "astonishing hypothesis".  It is,
to but things baldly, the notion that cognitive events (or "thought") are
equal to *physiological* events.  Frankly, this notion has been around for
centuries and has dominated the dialogue about "cognition" for *at least* the
last three to four decades.  Very few people in the academic community (never
mind the sciences in particular) seriously contest this point.  I see it as
being no longer a point of much discussion so I wonder why Crick chose to
direct the book partially towards the neuro community by including such large
portions of the experimental evidence.
	In the intro, Crick claims that he finds most people that he talks to
still hold a sort of dualist notion that "mind" and "brain" are different
entities. I can only conclude that he only talks to a considerably older, less
educated and more religious crowd than I do :-)! (obviously, the less educated
part can't be true)


Mike Taffe	* "..The cool thing about email is that when 
mtaffe at ucsd.edu	* you send it, there's no possibility of con-
		* necting with the person on the other end. "
				-D. Coupland

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