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Hardest Problem

The Hardest Problem in Science? by David Barash.

A nice thing about guest lecturing at another university is that for a change, one is treated as a genuine sage. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often, or it might seriously undermine that most elusive of all personal assets: genuine modesty. In any event, my well-deserved modesty (see Churchill’s apt description of his political rival, Clement Atlee) was being challenged one day, not too long ago, when an earnest audience member asked me—ME, of all people!—what was the most difficult unsolved problem in science.

I answered without hesitation: How the brain generates awareness, thought, perceptions, emotions, and so forth, what philosophers call “the hard problem of consciousness.”

It’s a hard one indeed, so hard that despite an immense amount of research attention devoted to neurobiology, and despite great advances in our knowledge, I don’t believe we are significantly closer to bridging the gap between that which is physical, anatomical and electro-neurochemical, and what is subjectively experienced by all of us … or at least by me. (I dunno about you!)

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