Oral history of British science

Humphrey, Nicholas (13 of 13).  An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Science and Religion

  • Recording date

    2016-05-24, 2016-05-31, 2016-06-02, 2016-07-05

  • Recording locations

    The British Library and interviewees' home, Cambridge

  • Interviewees

    Humphrey, Nicholas, 1943- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: Discussion of reductionism as a feature of popular science, with example of Francis Crick's 'The Astonishing Hypothesis' [1994] and story of TH Huxley's exchange with Bishop Wilberforce. Mentions HG Wells, JBS Haldane. [4:33] Further brief comments on relations with RD. Comments on experience of being written about in tabloid newspapers during relationship with SY; difference between own and DD's level of interest in public exposure/acclaim. Story of being recognised in Moscow hotel by the concierge. [11:05] Detailed comments on own concept of the "thick time of consciousness", distinct from other ideas of the 'extended present'. Story of development of view that "attractor states" in the brain (formed dynamically through behaviour of feedback loops, described in delay differential equations [DDEs]) could be the source of consciousness as "magic in the brain". Comments on current thinking about relations between the seven forms of catastrophe in complexity/chaos theory and seven modalities of sensation (taste, vision, etc.); narrative qualities of dreams. [25:55] Discussion of similarities and difference between own conception of biological "constraints" and Simon Conway Morris' work on evolutionary convergence. Comments on longstanding interest in CH Waddington's work on convergence in embryology. Mentions RS's "morphic fields". [30:06] Story of circumstances of conversation (at conference of the Mind and Life Institute) with physicist Paul Gailey leading to own thoughts on application of DDEs to understanding consciousness. Mentions Michel Bitbol. Comments on use of mathematical analysis in work on visual preferences of monkeys, with related stories. Mentions own reading of the series of books of essays published in the late 1960s and early 1970s 'Towards a Theoretical Biology'. [37:33] Comments on quotation in 'Soul Dust' from Steve Jones' criticisms of own work on consciousness studies; relations with SJ more generally, with related story. [41:42] Discussion of use of a tomato as example in writing on sensation and consciousness. [43:40] Detailed comments on relations between own work on "core consciousness" and DD's work on narrative forms of self understanding and representation. Comments on own recent lecture 'The Invention of Consciousness' which links work on different "levels" of work on consciousness, involving coming together of separate sub-selves in theatre of consciousness or (referring to Marvin Minsky) "the society of mind" and recognition of importance of invention as fabrication in experience of consciousness. [51:52] Story of work in US on stories of individuals claiming to have been abducted by aliens involving Budd Hopkins and John Mack.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Professor of Psychology Dr Nicholas Humphrey

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