Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gerald Maurice Edelman (born July 1, 1929) is a biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 for his work on the immune system. He is noted for his theory of mind, published in a trilogy of technical books, and in briefer form for a more general audience in Bright Air, Brilliant Fire and more recently in Wider than the Sky. Topobiology contains a theory of how the original neuronal network of a newborn's brain is established during development of the embryo. Neural Darwinism contains a theory of memory that is built around the idea of plasticity in the neural network in response to the environment. The Remembered Present contains a theory of consciousness.
Edelman has asked whether we should attempt to construct models of functioning minds or models of brains which, through interactions with their surroundings, can develop minds? Edelman's answer is that we should make model brains and pay attention to how they interact with their environment. In contrast with philosopher Daniel Dennett, Edelman accepts the existence of qualia and incorporates them into his brain-based theory of mind.
Edelman expounds a biological theory of consciousness, which he explicitly locates within Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection and Darwinian theories of population dynamics. He rejects dualism and also dismisses newer hypotheses such as the so-called 'computational' model of consciousness, which liken the brain's functions to the operations of a computer.
Edelman argues that the mind and consciousness are wholly material and purely biological phenomena, occurring as highly complex cellular processes within the brain, and that the development of consciousness and intelligence can be satisfactorally explained by Darwinian theory.
Gerald Edelman is the founder and director of The Neurosciences Institute, a nonprofit research centre that studies the biological basis of higher brain function in humans.
- Topobiology: An Introduction to Molecular Embryology (Basic Books; Reissue edition 1993) ISBN 0465086535
- Neural Darwinism: The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection (Basic Books, New York 1987). ISBN 0192860895
- The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness (Basic Books, New York 1990). ISBN 046506910X
- Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind (Basic Books, Reprint edition 1993). ISBN 0465007643
- Wider than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness (Yale Univ. Press 2004) ISBN 0300102291
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