After the Double Helix: Unraveling the Mysteries of the State of Being

April 13, 2004 | Source: New York Times

DNA discoverer Dr. Francis Crick and Dr. Christof Koch, a professor of computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology, are exploring the neural correlates of consciousness” (N.C.C.’s) — the neuronal states and processes associated with conscious awareness.

Koch and his graduate students are gaining experimental evidence for what Crick had termed the “awareness neurons” that enable us to see.

While many scientists assume that consciousness is a global property of the brain, Koch and Crick say they believe that perhaps only a few thousand neurons give rise to the feeling of conscious awareness.

For Crick, the most profound implication of an operational understanding of consciousness is that “it will lead to the death of the soul.”

“The view of ourselves as ‘persons’ is just as erroneous as the view that the Sun goes around the Earth,” he said. He predicted that “this sort of language will disappear in a few hundred years. In the fullness of time, educated people will believe there is no soul independent of the body, and hence no life after death.”