X-Message-Number: 26017
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 16:50:07 -0400
Subject: On the Complexity of Brains

Those in Southern California might be interested in the following, copied 
from E-Skeptic:

Brain, Mind & Consciousness
The Skeptics Society Annual Conference
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, May 13 15
at the Westin Resort & Hotel
and the Beckman Auditorium, Caltech, Pasadena, CA
Research on the brain, mind, and consciousness was given a significant 
boost by Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick in 1994, when he wrote in his 
book, The Astonishing Hypothesis, that you, your joys and your sorrows, 
your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free 
will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve 
cells and their associated molecules. 
This is what is called  the hard problem    explaining how billions of 
neurons swapping chemicals give rise to such subjective experiences as 
consciousness, self-awareness, and awareness that others are conscious and 
self-aware; that is, not only the ability to wonder, but the ability to 
wonder why we wonder, and even wonder why others wonder why.
Explaining each of the functional parts of the brain is the easy problem, 
such as the differences between waking and sleep, discrimination of 
stimuli, or the control of behavior. By contrast, what has come to be known 
as the hard problem in consciousness studies is experience: what it is like 
to be in a given mental state. Adding up all of the solved easy problems 
does not equal a solution to the hard problem. Something else is going on 
in private subjective experiences   called qualia   and there is no 
consensus on what it is.
Dualists hold that qualia are separate from physical objects in the world 
and that mind is more than brain. Materialists contend that qualia are 
ultimately explicable through the activities of neurons and that mind and 
brain are one. Our speakers, some of the top neuroscientists in the world, 
will address these and other problems, such as the evolution of the brain, 
and how and why it got to be so large. Skeptics will get a chance to 
interact with these world-class scientists on the breaks, during meals, and 
in a formal discussion period. We will also consider the implications of 
this new brain research to better understand apparent paranormal phenomena, 
as well as how and why people believe weird things.
Special Guest:
        Mike Reiss, head writer for The Simpsons
        James  The Amazing  Randi
        Bob Friedhoffer, the  madman of magic 
        mentalist Mark Edwards
        illusionist Jerry Andrus
Dr. John Allman
Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neuroscience, Biology Division, 
California Institute of Technology, author of Evolving Brains, conducts 
research on the evolution and development of the brain, reconstructions of 
cerebral cortex, the interface between emotion and cognition, and the 
relationship between the anterior cingulate cortex and attention deficit 
disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, 
post-traumatic stress, and anxiety disorders.
Dr. Susan Blackmore
is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol. 
With degrees in psychology and physiology from Oxford University and a 
Ph.D. in parapsychology from the University of Surrey, her research 
interests include memes and the theory of memetics, evolutionary theory, 
consciousness, and meditation. She is author of Beyond the Body, Dying to 
Live, In Search of the Light, Test Your Psychic Powers, The Meme Machine, 
and Consciousness: An Introduction.
Dr. Ursula Goodenough
Professor of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO; conducts 
research on cell biology, the evolution of the genes governing 
mating-related traits, the molecular basis for flagellar motility, emergent 
properties in biological systems, the evolution of symbolic communication 
in primates, and the interface of science and religion. She is the author 
of the widely adopted textbook, Genetics, and of the popular science book, 
The Sacred Depths of Nature.
Dr. Alison Gopnik
Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley; runs the 
cognitive development lab, conducting research on cognition, brain, and 
behavior; theory of mind; psychology and philosophy; how children develop 
and change intuitive theories of the world in much the way that scientists 
do; children s causal knowledge and causal learning across domains, 
including physical, biological and psychological knowledge; in essence, how 
the brain learns to think.
Dr. Christof Koch
obtained his Ph.D. in (bio)-physics with a minor in Philosophy. After four 
years at MIT, he joined the California Institute of Technology, where he is 
the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology. 
His laboratory focuses on experimental and computational research 
pertaining to neuronal correlates of selective visual attention and 
consciousness in the mammalian brain, a topic he has worked on for the past 
16 years with Francis Crick.
Dr. Richard J. McNally
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, author of Remembering Trauma 
and the classic paper in Psychological Science,  Psychophysiological 
Responding During Script-Driven Imagery in People Reporting Abduction by 
Space Aliens,  in which he demonstrates that imaginary traumas are as 
terrifying as the real thing. Conducts research on memories: true, false, 
recovered, repressed, and remembered.
Dr. Steven Quartz
Division of Humanities & Social Sciences, and Computation and Neural 
Systems Program, California Institute of Technology, co-author of Liars, 
Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become 
Who We Are, conducts research in neuroeconomics, the neural correlates of 
product branding, and the neuroscience of cooperation, competition, and the 
development of trust.
Dr. V. S. Ramachandran
Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Professor of Psychology, 
University of California, San Diego, author of Phantoms in the Brain: 
Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, The Emerging Mind, and A Brief 
Tour of Human Consciousness, and is Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of 
Human Behaviour. Newsweek magazine called him one of the  hundred most 
prominent people to watch in the next century. 
Dr. Hank Schlinger
Department of Psychology, California State University, Northridge, author 
of Psychology: A Behavioral Overview, A Behavior-Analytic View of Child 
Development, and Introduction to Scientific Psychology and has published 
scientific articles in journals including the American Psychologist, 
Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Pharmacology, 
Biochemistry and Behavior, Psychopharmacology, Psychological Record, The 
Analysis of Verbal Behavior, The Behavior Analyst, Skeptic and Skeptical 
Dr. Terry Sejnowski
Director, Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute, Advisory 
Board Chair of The Science Network, author of Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: 
What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are, conducts 
research on the hippocampus, believed to play a major role in learning and 
memory; and the cerebral cortex, which holds our knowledge of the world and 
how to interact with it.
Dr. Paul Zak
Center for Neuroeconomics Study, Claremont Graduate University, conducts 
research on the neurobiology of trust, the neural substrates of reward 
valuation, the relationship of touch and trust, and the link between 
economic systems, social structures, and trust.
Register online (www.skeptic.com/conf/reg.html) or call 626-794-3119
$150 Skeptics Society members, $175 nonmembers, $75 Students

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