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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index E > Gerald Maurice Edelman Quotes

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Gerald Maurice Edelman
(1 Jul 1929 - )

American biochemist who shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1972.


Science Quotes by Gerald Maurice Edelman (4 quotes)

Each nerve cell receives connections from other nerve cells at six sites called synapses. But here is an astonishing fact—there are about one million billion connections in the cortical sheet. If you were to count them, one connection (or synapse) per second, you would finish counting some thirty-two million years after you began. Another way of getting a feeling for the numbers of connections in this extraordinary structure is to consider that a large match-head’s worth of your brain contains about a billion connections. Notice that I only mention counting connections. If we consider how connections might be variously combined, the number would be hyperastronomical—on the order of ten followed by millions of zeros. (There are about ten followed by eighty zero’s worth of positively charged particles in the whole known universe!)
— Gerald Maurice Edelman
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 17.
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There is no end of hypotheses about consciousness, particularly by philosophers. But most of these are not what we might call principled scientific theories, based on observables and related to the functions of the brain and body. Several theories of consciousness based on functionalism and on the machine model of the mind... have recently been proposed. These generally come in two flavors: one in which consciousness is assumed to be efficacious, and another in which it is considered an epiphenomenon. In the first, consciousness is likened to the executive in a computer systems program, and in the second, to a fascinating but more or less useless by-product of computation.
— Gerald Maurice Edelman
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 112.
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We’re inquiring into the deepest nature of our constitutions: How we inherit from each other. How we can change. How our minds think. How our will is related to our thoughts. How our thoughts are related to our molecules.
— Gerald Maurice Edelman
Newsweek 4 Jul 76
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What these two sciences of recognition, evolution and immunology, have in common is not found in nonbiological systems such as 'evolving' stars. Such physical systems can be explained in terms of energy transfer, dynamics, causes, and even 'information transfer'. But they do not exhibit repertoires of variants ready for interaction by selection to give a population response according to a hereditary principle. The application of a selective principle in a recognition system, by the way, does not necessarily mean that genes must be involved—it simply means that any state resulting after selection is highly correlated in structure with the one that gave rise to it and that the correlation continues to be propagated. Nor is it the case that selection cannot itself introduce variation. But a constancy or 'memory' of selected events is necessary. If changes occurred so fast that what was selected could not emerge in the population or was destroyed, a recognition system would not survive. Physics proper does not deal with recognition systems, which are by their nature biological and historical systems. But all the laws of physics nevertheless apply to recognition systems.
— Gerald Maurice Edelman
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 79.
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See also:
  • 1 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Edelman's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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