The Paula Gordon Show
The Dance of Consciousness

Walter J. Freeman

      . . . is a professor of Neurobiology at the University of California at Berkeley. He received an M.D. from Yale University.  He completed postdoctoral training in neurophysiology at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1959, the year he joined the Berkeley faculty. He is an acknowledged pioneer of brain research whose books include Societies of Brains: A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate.

Excerpts3:43 secs

      Consciousness springs from action, cooperation and rhythm, according to neuroscientist Walter J. Freeman. In fact, Dr. Freeman believes he has physiological evidence for his bold assertions.

      Dr. Freeman is a pioneering neurobiologist who has been doing brain research at the University of California at Berkeley since 1959. He is a medical doctor, student of physics, mathematics and philosophy, and an author. An acknowledged pioneer in brain research, Dr. Freeman‚s experimentally-based ideas about consciousness and the central role of cooperation in the brain, family, tribe, and society are revitalizing honored scientific and philosophical traditions.

      Freeman's work challenges many in today's scientific establishment, including Nobel Laureates. But Freeman is secure in the company he keeps -- many of his ideas have been around for centuries. He is droll in casting himself in the role of midwife, someone to update and recognize the critical role of cooperative action.

      Experimental work leads Dr. Freeman to believe that we evolved within a matrix of cooperative action within brains and between them. Cooperation is a profound reality for humans. It is fundamental between neurons, in families, within tribes, and among nations. In fact, Dr. Freeman believes, consciousness itself is rooted in these cooperative interactions. He believes we create ourselves by our actions and that he has the experimental data to demonstrate it. In terms of Darwin's natural selection, Dr. Freeman is confident we were selected to be cooperative.

      Freeman also has evidence that learning is action-based. We learn from experience. But before we can learn new behaviors, we must first un-learn old ones. Both un-learning old ways and learning new ones were required for our hominid ancestors‚ survival, he believes. Freeman thinks the physiology of un-learning requires deeply emotional experiences, with neurochemical mechanisms at work during those emotional experiences.

      Where do learning, un-learning and cooperation come together? In rhythmic, predictable actions like drumming, dancing and singing. And according to Dr. Freeman, only humans have rhythm.

      There are profound implications for our species in Dr. Freeman's new way of seeing consciousness. His work gives him confidence that human beings have only just begun to comprehend our full potential. He does not see any limitations on our growth or the richness of human experience. So what have we to fear as we face an uncertain future? Fear itself. Sound familiar?

Conversation 1

Dr. Walter J. Freeman shows Paula Gordon and Bill Russell how music, sports and dance are central to human consciousness. He gives examples of how we create and play out expectations, which lead us to a realization of the consequences of our actions. He shows how the thrust of the pattern of our evolution as a species is toward social organization, our brains as well as our groups evolving under social and biological pressures to cooperate. He sketches his metaphor of neurons in the brain cooperating „in society.š He describes the current worldwide resurgence in interest in consciousness and the historical framework of which that interest is a part.


Conversation 2

Dr. Freeman elaborates on the discovery/eureka process,where ideas fall into a new pattern. He shows why genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Dr. Freeman expands on his idea of volition -- voluntary action within an internal structure -- comparing his own status as a maverick within the scientific community to Martin Luther's dilemma. He reviews how ideas about our brains and consciousness have evolved from the time of the Enlightenment, showing a way beyond the current intellectual obsession with the individual. He shows how simplicity often emerges from chaos.


Conversation 3

Dr. Freeman elaborates on the discovery/eureka process,where ideas fall into a new pattern. He shows why genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Dr. Freeman expands on his idea of volition -- voluntary action within an internal structure -- comparing his own status as a maverick within the scientific community to Martin Luther's dilemma. He reviews how ideas about our brains and consciousness have evolved from the time of the Enlightenment, showing a way beyond the current intellectual obsession with the individual. He shows how simplicity often emerges from chaos.


Conversation 4

A renown neurophysiologist, Dr. Freeman notes both science's strengths and limitations. He explains "neural existentialism," where humans create themselves by their actions, and traces the idea's intellectual roots. He explains why one must un-learn old behaviors before we can learn new ones. Dancing, he contends, offers an ideal situation in which to do so and Dr. Freeman tells why that is so. He describes our remote hominid physiological experiences where trust was essential and shows how dance and music figured into our evolution.


Conversation 5

Humans, asserts Dr. Freeman, are selected to cooperate. He tells why this is hopeful for humanity and offers the reasons he believes we have only just begun to understand our full potential. He describes new ecological niches which are opening because of our technological advances and offers his powerfully optimistic view of humanity's future.


Acknowledgements

Dr. Freeman has been faithfully encouraging us as our program has evolved, cheering us on and leading us to important intellectual insights and resources. We are honored to know him and grateful for his attention.


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