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Wider Than the Sky: A Revolutionary View of Consciousness (Penguin Press Science) Paperback – 30 Jun 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141015101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141015101
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,259,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Gerald Edelman MD PhD is Director of the Neurosciences Institute and President of the Neurosciences Research Foundation. He is the author of Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (1992) and Consciousness (Penguin 2000).

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In 1869, Charles Darwin found himself vexed with his friend Alfred Wallace, the co-founder of the theory of evolution. Read the first page
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Nickels on 26 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Edelman does his absolute best to put across his understanding of consciousness in as concise a way as possible. In some ways, it's too concise and I found myself often having to reread a paragraph to take it in. Nevertheless this is a gratifying read for those interested in the relationship between neurology and consciousness and the nature of qualia. Edelman writes from a position of experience and authority, though any book on the subject of consciousness is going to be out of date almost as it goes to publication.
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By Sugata Mitra on 22 April 2009
Format: Paperback
Edelman's theory of consciousness is the first cogent piece of work on the subject. Neural circuits form and change continuously, its evolution happening at a great speed. Edelman connects consciousness to what he calls re-entry, the ability of neural circuits to strengthen themselves.

Edelman's is the view of a neurologist. What we now need is a physicist to put all this together into a theory of self organisation. That will be the widest understanding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gerald Maurice Edelman (born 1929) is an American biologist who shared the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work on the immune system; more recently, his work has been in neuroscience and the philosophy of mind, and he has written other books such as Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind, A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, etc. [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 201-page edition.)

He wrote in the Preface to this 2004 book, "Consciousness is the guarantor of all we hold to be human and precious. Its permanent loss is considered equivalent to death, even if the body persists in its vital signs. No wonder, then, that consciousness has attracted speculation and study across the ages... My conviction that consciousness is susceptible to scientific study has been supported by a sharp increase in the number of publications and scientific meetings on the subject." (Pg. xi) He adds, "A scientific analysis of consciousness must answer the question: How can the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations, thoughts, and emotions?... A scientific explanation must provide a causal account of the connection between these domains so that properties in one domain may be understood in terms of events in the other. This is the task I have set myself in this small book." (Pg. xiii)

He explains, "There is one simple principle that governs how the brain works: it evolved; that is, it was not designed... I hold this notion [Darwinian natural selection] to be central, not only in considering how the brain has evolved, but also about how it develops and functions. Applying population thinking to understanding how the brain works leads to a global theory, called neural Darwinism or the theory of neuronal group selection." (Pg. 32-33) He states, "neuronal group selection... has three tenets: (1) Developmental selection... epigenetic variations in the patterns of connections among growing neurons create reportoires in each brain consisting of millions of variant circuits or neuronal groups... (2) Experiential selection... large variations in synaptic strengths, positive and negative, result from variations in environmental input during behavior... (3) Reentry... the ongoing recursive interchange of parallel signals among brain areas, which serves to coordinate the activities of different brain areas in space and time." (Pg. 39-41)

He summarizes his proposal: "We may now ask the critical question: what is the SUFFICIENT evolutionary event leading to the emergence of consciousness? The thesis I am proposing is that, at a point in evolutionary time corresponding to the transition between reptiles and birds and mammals, a new reciprocal connectivity appeared in the thalamocortical system... These dynamic reentrant interactions in the thalamocortical system must be thought of as successive in time---new perceptual categorizations are reentrantly connected to memory systems before they themselves become part of an altered memory system... What is the consequence of this evolutionary development...? It is the ability to construct a complex scene and to make discriminations between components of that scene... The ability to create a scene... is the basis for the emergence of primary consciousness." (Pg. 54-57)

This book will be of considerable interest to those studying cognitive neuroscience or the philosophy of mind.
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