After receiving the Nobel prize along with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins in 1962 for the elegant description of the structure of our helical molecule, Francis Crick dedicated his life towards the studying of the mind. Although I knew this true genius dedicated his life on this, I haven't got the opportunity to read about his work on consciousness before, so I was really excited when I found this book the other day.
Consciousness is a fascinating memoir, written by Christof Koch, about his research work along with Francis Crick on their quest on understanding what the mind is....on what is consciousness and makes us "human". Koch, also a physicist like Crick and with a minor in philosophy, will give you a fascinating approach on this topic as well as on free will. Can we truly act freely or are we just the result of the predispositions and circumstances of our environment or the culture we were raised by? What does physics have to say about this? Can the computational theory of mind help us to understand our "qualia"? Do animals have consciousness? Does the cortico-thalamic system has the answer? You will find a little of this along your reading.
Many of us, rely on science and philosophy in order to look for answers of the many questions our curiosity can give us, and this is what this memoir is about. So I really enjoy when I find a scientist that tries to give answers from many different approaches. In this case, our consciousness from a physics, philosophical and neurobiological perspective for only one true answer. I found Koch as an honest writer, who besides talking about his research talks openly about his loss in religious belief due to a maturity in seeing the world as it is along with being incompatible with scientific explanations. A naturalist scientific in whom I also noticed a touch of existentialism and a great sense of wonder. I like and agree with Koch expressing: "There is no reason why we should not ultimately understand how the phenomenal mind fits into the physical world".
Well, even if we find a reductionist molecular answer to this great riddle of the mind, will humans ever settle with this explanations or will we always be in the need something more?
I also perceived the same Crick that I've read many times and that James Watson also describes, open to new and radical explanations but always consistent with established and verifiable facts. It was funny to see that he referred to automatisms as zombie agents! It was a true delight for me to read about the research of this pair of geniuses and their friendship all the way to Crick's death.
I'll close with my favorite Francis Crick quote: “There is no scientific study more vital to man than the study of his own brain. Our entire view of the universe depends on it.”
A short memoir, that I really liked!