(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
The British chimist Graham Cairns-Smith
Consciousness comes from feelings (fear, pain, etc) and sensations (colors,
sounds, etc). Evolution perfected our ability to make feelings and sensations,
and that ability became today's consciousness. All evolved functions are to
be found in our genes, therefore consciousness is also in our genes.
The first chapter is a concise history of modern science, from the discovery of electricity to quantum theory. The second chapter is an introduction to the machinery of life (cells, genes, proteins, etc). The third and fourth chapters review the machinery of the brain (neurons, action potential, etc). And so forth. By the end of the book, the reader has absorbed an immense amount of scientific theories.
At the crucial point, Cairns-Smith highlights what a theory of consciousness should be. Ideally, it should encompass everything this book has touched upon and make sense of their relationships. But then he stops short of proposing his own theory, other than suggesting that consciousness may have evolved out of a primordial pleasure-pain system.
The book is clearly written and accessible to anybody. It spans the four realms of knowledge (matter, life, brain, consciousness) that one ought to master in order to deal with the mysteries of mind. The only disappointment is that the author does not offer any novel idea.