About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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November 19, 2003

Can Science Explain Consciousness?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

What is consciousness? Is there a neurobiological basis for consciousness? Is conscious will an illusion? In early April, many of the world's leading consciousness researchers will gather in Tucson for four days to explore how science might be able to answer these elusive questions.

Tom Ray, in a plenary session with Alexander Shulgin and Franz Vollenweider, will share his thoughts on how mapping receptor space will lead to a clearer understanding of the chemical architecture of the mind and perhaps consciousness itself.

Other esteemed speakers include:
-David Chalmers, University of Arizona
-Anthony Freeman, Journal of Consciousness Studies
-Christof Koch, California Institute of Technology
-Marilyn Schlitz, Institute of Noetic Sciences
-Daniel Dennett, Tufts University
-Roger Penrose, Oxford University
-Steven Pinker, Harvard University
-Ned Block, NYU
-David Leopold, Max Plank Institute
-Janet Metcalfe, Columbia University
-Alva Noë, UC Santa Cruz
-Ron Rensink, UC Berkeley
-Wendy Shields, University of Minnesota
-Daniel Wegner, Harvard University

Topics to be discussed include:
--Neural Plasticity and Synesthesia
--Pathways of Visual Consciousness
--How do Hallucinogens Affect Consciousness?
--Is There Metacognition in Animals?
--Ethics and the Brain

(I can't wait for the discussion over the sticky neuroethical issue brought up by Richard Glen Boire on the Right to Erase One's Memory.

See you there.

Comments (13) | Category: Perception Shift


1. Chris Furmanski on November 19, 2003 7:23 PM writes...

Ron Rensink does some really cool work on a phenomenon called change blindness (where people do not notice subtle (or not so subtle) changes in a scene). The work has very interesting implications to attention, visual processing, consciousness, and society at large, but certainly check out some of the really cool videos from the work of a fellow change-blindness scientist, Dan Simon:

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2. coolmel on November 20, 2003 9:18 AM writes...

now this is more like it!! i see a good blend of both interiors and exteriors champions on the panel.

but still, the exteriors (hard sciences) always get the upper-hand. i yearn for the day when both interiors and exteriors will have equal footing (e.g. the academia, and mainstream) in the study of consciousness.

coincidentally, Star Trek Enterprise (no, i'm not a trekkie) had an episode last night which is very much related to this topic.

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4. Zack Lynch on November 21, 2003 9:41 AM writes...

Avi: Thanks for the excellent link to this conference. I highly recommend that anyone interested in this topic follow the Stanford link above.

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5. coolmel on November 26, 2003 10:33 AM writes...

Avi, thanks! excellent link. i've added it to my neurotech wormholes.

so can science really explain consciousness? this is a good start:
i'm just wonderin' why that dude is not in the panel ;)

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6. A Crawford on November 26, 2003 4:47 PM writes...

I'm curious why so many serious scientists seem to be eager to dive back into epistemology and metaphysics. Doesn't this invite the worst type of poorly understood, misapplication of experimental, empirical science by 'pop' social philosophers desperate to support their own unscientific claims by evoking a more reputable authority?

Likewise, should scientists be more careful when crossing into intellectual disciplines they're not trained in? It doesn't help the cause of science when a physicist or molecular biologist uses non-scientific philosophic jargon to describe scientific phenomena (the "Tao" of Physics being one of my favorite examples). Perhaps before asking whoppers like "What is Consciousness?" it'd be best to tackle logical and metaphysical definitions? Or maybe I'm just paranoid?

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7. coolmel on November 28, 2003 2:52 PM writes...

"serious" scientist "should" tackle epistemology and phenomenology if their science is to be deemed "integral". no metaphysics required:

always remember what uncle Albert E. used to say about science and religion. my two cents.

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8. Fin2ut on December 3, 2003 9:59 AM writes...

In reference to the latest comments, I would add the following.

1) I agree about the issue of semantics; one of the biggest problems we have in neuro-philosophy is that our cuurent vocabluary is too antiquated to meaningfully express the issues we now face.

2) I do not agree with the discomfort expressed in the above posts about "scientists" exploring "metaphysics" (using these terms in the vernacular). For example, one key issue now is the high probability that "free will" (as the term is typically used) does not exist. The ramifications inherent in the acceptance of this statement are at least as great as was the discovery the world was round. Yet only through neuroscience can this be elucidated.

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9. Pregnancy, Pregnant. on January 15, 2004 11:47 PM writes...

Very inspiring, thankyou! Good luck to you in the future. :)

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10. jo on October 6, 2004 8:38 PM writes...

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11. Drug detox on October 13, 2004 10:31 AM writes...


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12. Lortab on October 19, 2004 12:42 AM writes...


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13. jorje on October 24, 2004 1:25 PM writes...

You are best.

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