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Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  408 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Traditionally, the human soul is regarded as a nonphysical concept that can only be examined by psychiatrists and theologists. In his new book, The Astonishing Hypothesis, Nobel Laureate Francis Crick boldly straddles the line between science and spirituality by examining the soul from the standpoint of a modern scientist, basing the soul's existence and function on an in- ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Scribner (first published 1990)
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Ivan Vukovic
It was awfully difficult to read it, not because the language or terminology was difficult (it wasn't), not even because it was a hard concept to wrap your mind around. It was difficult for me because I was waiting for the parts about consciousness and awareness, but Crick filled pages and pages with tedious details about the visual system.

As someone interested in neuroscience, that was quite boring and exhausting because I know all that, I wanted to read something about consciousness, something
I've reached the point now where I've read so many popular science books about the consciousness and cognition that I'm starting to see a lot of redundancy. Crick's astonishing hypothesis was anything but to me at this point. Crick uses a very effective, and very standard, method to drive his point home. He goes over neuronal firing, and then details the workings of the visual system. We know so much about this system that Crick is able to relay to the reader that vast quantities of neurons, fir ...more
As a neuroscientist, most of the book was fairly basic material I already knew, but the conclusions were interesting. If you aren't a neuroscientist and you're interested in the basics, particularly of the visual system, then I highly recommend it. It will help you to understand my thesis :-)
Iso Cambia
Oct 11, 2011 Iso Cambia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Iso by: Numerous other others
"Whatever the answer, the only sensible way to arrive at it is through detailed scientific research. All other approaches are little more than whistling to keep our courage up. Man is endowed with a relentless curiosity about the world. We cannot be satisfied forever by the guesses of yesterday, however much the charms of tradition and ritual may, for a time, lull our doubts about their validity. We must hammer away until we have forged a clear and valid picture not only of this vast universe in ...more
Michael Connolly

Francis Crick studies the mind-body problem of philosophy using a scientific approach. It appears that consciousness involves only more recently evolved parts of the brain, and does not exist in lower animals. Consciousness was ignored by the behavioral psychologists John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner. Francis Crick did much of his work in collaboration with Christof Koch of CalTech.

Focusing on Vision

Crick decided to focus his attention on vision, short-term memory, and iconic memory,
When I read this book, more than 10 years ago, I felt "astonished" with the Crick's angle of attack on the subject. It is provoking, scientific and impartial, and this last characteristic is even more difficult to achieve, considering that Crick tilts heavily towards atheism. However Crick is a scientist, and science should be impartial to the facts collected, observations made, in order to propose a hypothesis or prove theorems.

I believe that the subtitle is misleading, and I think that even Cr
R Wayne
Astonishing Hypothesis:A Scientific Search for the Soul" by Francis Crick changed the direction of my thinking. It certainly helped me resolve questions (in my mind) concerning certain religious issues. I began to pursue the realm of "What is consciousness", which lead me into neuroscience. I attended the Consciousness Conference in Tucson,Az. (1996). Dan Dennet, Kristoff Koch, Roger Penrose, Patricia Churchland, and a number of other prominent individuals concerned with neuroscience were in at ...more
A foundational premise Crick builds on, directly and indirectly, is that God does not exist. He admits himself that even though the intricate complexity of the world around us, from the motions in the heavens to the biological mechanims and complex systems that we observe, all suggest to our minds that there exists an intelligent designer. But, as Crick speculates, that there is no such being is astonishing. The scientific method can be applied only to that which is observable and reproducible, ...more
Charlane Brady
Interesting and thought provoking!

Francis Crick was able to write for lay readers to understand a comprehensive overview of visual neuroscience... how the brain sees. And he examines the soul from the standpoint of a scientist. Crick is unafraid. He steps in between science and spirituality.

I love to read people's opinions and Crick, being a Nobel Laureate and all, is someone's opinion I admire. Even when his opinion differs from mine.

This book ignites thoughts and numerous questions. I LOVE i
Dan Burke
This book was, for me, an astonishing waste of time. Much of the information seems very dated. The author discusses visual cortical neurons in some detail. That was somewhat interesting but almost no meaningful discussions occur about mechanisms and neurophysiology of nerve impulses. Overall, I just did not find much that was astonishing.
Abigail Swire
Terrible. Boring. Unastonishing.
Kayson Fakhar
it was interesting hypothesis (not astonishing) with basic details about visual perception and neural behavior.
A sigh of relief. The Astonishing Hypothesis was developed by Crick and Christof Koch. Having tried and failed to read the high level (and quite poorly written) The Quest for Consciousness by Christof Koch, I am delighted to find that this book is accessible and aims at explaining the same hypothesis, i.e. that the brain IS the sum of its parts and that the parts and processes are knowable. Can't wait to read the discussion on free will that he promises.

So far, so good.
Lays out an argument from a scientist's point of view. The firing of neurons to explain consciousness. His is an argument against free will. This is a well documented scientific approach (of course, He is a scientist) I don't think he made his case. In using vision as a parallel, I think he took a leap.
Renee Valdez
I'm wishing I had read this book before I read Edelman's, "Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness". This book sets a good foundation for those curious about consciousness and wanting some solid neurobiological approaches to solving its mystery.
Adih Respati
There is no such thing as homunculus --little man inside our brain controlling our behaviors-- and human soul is nothing like we mystically think it is, merely a complex electrochemical works of neurons. And all are scientifically describable.
Jessica Schildroth
Very interesting. The science here is really well articulated, although the logic is somewhat flawed. I'd like to believe the "gaps" in logic are due to his attempts to explain the very technical to a wide audience...
Lisa Kavagiou
A great journey through the brain, its way of functioning, our way of studying it. A comfortable read for non-scientists, educating and thought-provoking too.
Excellent survey of the workings of the visual system as a proxy for human consciousness - illuminates the brain that reads it.
I was not astonished. Might have been a little if i read it way earlier. Thus the 1 star.
Ira Brodsky
Crick was a more interesting thinker than his partner Watson.
Underwhelming. old idea's rehashed.
Being is biological.
review coming soon.
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Francis Harry Compton Crick OM FRS (8 June 1916 – 28 July 2004), was a British molecular biologist, physicist, and neuroscientist, and most noted for being one of the co-discoverers of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. He, James D. Watson and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nu ...more
More about Francis Crick...
What Mad Pursuit Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature Of Molecules and Men Journal of Consciousness Studies: Controversies in Science and the Humanities (Volume 1,  No. 1, 1994) The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing

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“A person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.” 0 likes
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