Gerald Edelman

From Academic Kids

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. Edelman accepts the existence of qualia and incorporates them into his brain-based theory of mind. His concept of qualia avoids the pitfalls of the idea of special qualia with non-functional properties, which was criticized by Daniel Dennett.

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 in San Diego that studies the biological basis of higher brain function in humans.

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