Consciousness in the biological sciences

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Abstract:

[opening paragraph]: The Institute of Noetic Sciences organised a four-day conference in February 1995 at the Sequoia Retreat Center in California. Twenty-three participants engaged in continuous dialogue on the biological implications of the frontiers that are opening up under the impulse of the new wave of studies in consciousness. Some of us were old enough to remember that this interest waxes and wanes, like consciousness itself, with a cycle time of around thirty years. However there was a sense that something new would break through into biology as a result of the current awareness that consciousness presents a fundamental challenge to conventional science. There are two aspects to this challenge which emerged early in the discussions and to some extent divided the participants into two interest groups. Both recognised that consciousness is simultaneously an objective reality and a subjective experience, but one group preferred to stress the third person, objective approach to its study while the other emphasized the challenge of developing a science that acknowledges first person experience as primary. My own experience of the meeting was that the challenge we faced rotated around this area of obscurity and shadow, where unconscious impulses were driving us beyond the positivist science of control, certainty, and quantities into a new science of participation, uncertainty, and qualities with a fundamentally new emphasis and goal from the enterprise that characterises modernity.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: April 1, 1995

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