RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Part 74 VS Ramachandran, neuroscientist UC San Diego, “Things like creativity may go up to a certain point in explaining (the brain) or you have to start saying the divine sparkle or something that we scientists don’t believe in, eventually the answer is yes, we are going to explain many different aspects by brain function”


On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

Sir Harry Kroto, FSU’s Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry


I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Patricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtHermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman, George Lakoff,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, Elizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,   Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Robert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

Wikipedia notes:

Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandra (born 1951) is a neuroscientist known primarily for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and visualpsychophysics. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego.

Ramachandran is the author of several books that have garnered widespread public interest. These include Phantoms in the Brain (1998), “A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness” (2004) and The Tell-Tale Brain (2010). In addition to his books, Ramachandran is known for his engaging style as a public lecturer. He has presented keynote addresses and public lectures in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and India. His work in behavioral neurology has been widely reported by the media and he has appeared in numerous Channel 4 and PBS documentaries. He has also been featured by the BBC, the Science Channel,Newsweek, Radio Lab, and This American Life, TED Talks and Charlie Rose.

Ramachandran is the director of a neuroscience research group known as the Center for Brain and Cognition.[1] This group, made up of students and researchers from different universities, is affiliated with the Department of Psychology at UCSD. Members of the CBC have published articles on a range of topics related to neuroscience.[1][2]

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
Vilayanur S Ramachandran 2011 Shankbone.JPG

Ramachandran at the 2011 Time 100 gala
Born 1951 (age 64–65)
Tamil Nadu, India
Residence San Diego, California
Institutions University of California, San Diego
Alma mater
Known for Research in neurology, visual perception, phantom limbs,synesthesia, autism, body integrity identity disorder
Notable awards Ariens-Kappers medal (1999),Padma Bhushan (2007), Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Physicians (2014)

In  the second video below in the 52nd clip in this series are his words and  my response is below them. 

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 1)

Another 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 2)

A Further 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 3)

QUOTE from Professor Ramachandran

Can you explain everything about who we human beings are by looking at the physiognomy of the brain?  . Is it as simple as that? Does it come down to what you once described as understanding that sort of block of jelly inside the head and that ultimately explains everything about the way human beings are and the way we perceive ourselves and orhers? I think that answer to that question is almost certainly yes. Things like creativity may go up to a certain point in explaining it or you have to start saying the divine sparkle or something that we scientists don’t believe in. Eventually the answer is yes, we are going to explain many different aspects by brain function. 

Below my letter to  Professor Ramachandran responding to his quote:


April 9, 2015

Vilayanur Ramachandran
Center for Brain and Cognition
UC San Diego,

Dear Dr. Ramachandran,

I really enjoyed watching your comments on the You Tube clip from the BEYOND BELIEF CONFERENCE and that got me started reading your material. Let me start off by saying that this is not the first time that I have written you. Earlier I shared several letters of correspondence I had with Carl Sagan, and Antony Flew. Both men were strong believers in evolution as you are today. Instead of talking to you about their views today I wanted to discuss the views of you and Charles Darwin. 

TWO THINGS MADE ME THINK OF YOU RECENTLY. On April 5, 2015 at the Fellowship Bible Church Easter morning service in Little Rock, Arkansas our pastor Mark Henry described DOUBTING THOMAS and that description made me think of you.  Moreover, your skeptical view towards  Christianity reminds me of CHARLES DARWIN’S growing doubts throughout his life on these same theological issues such as skepticism in reaction to the claims of the Bible!!!

I’m an evangelical Christian and you are a secularist but I am sure we can both agree with the apostle Paul when he said in First Corinthians 15 that if Christ did not rise from the dead then Christians are to be most pited!!!! I attended Easter services this week and this issue came up and Mark Henry asserted that there is plenty of evidence that indicates that the Bible is historically accurate. Did you know that CHARLES DARWIN thought about this very subject quite a lot?

I just finished reading the online addition of the book Darwin, Francis ed. 1892. Charles Darwin: his life told in an autobiographical chapter, and in a selected series of his published letters [abridged edition]. London: John Murray. There are several points that Charles Darwin makes in this book that were very wise, honest, logical, shocking and some that were not so wise. The Christian Philosopher Francis Schaeffer once said of Darwin’s writings, “Darwin in his autobiography and in his letters showed that all through his life he never really came to a quietness concerning the possibility that chance really explained the situation of the biological world. You will find there is much material on this [from Darwin] extended over many manufacturers years that constantly he was wrestling with this problem.”


Can you explain everything about who we human beings are by looking at the physiognomy of the brain?  . Is it as simple as that? Does it come down to what you once described as understanding that sort of block of jelly inside the head and that ultimately explains everything about the way human beings are and the way we perceive ourselves and orhers? I think that answer to that question is almost certainly yes. Things like creativity may go up to a certain point in explaining it or you have to start saying the divine sparkle or something that we scientists don’t believe in. Eventually the answer is yes, we are going to explain many different aspects by brain function. 


In the You Tube clip from the BEYOND BELIEF conference in 2007 you said that proving that there is a ghost is standing next to you or the “great spaghetti monster” doesn’t exist  is the same as trying to prove that God does not exist. As William Lane Craig stated, “That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present.” (7)

Quotes like this indicate to me that you are a DOUBTING THOMAS type. YOU MAY FIND IT INTERESTING THAT CHARLES DARWIN WAS ALSO INTERESTED IN THE HISTORICAL ASPECT OF THE BIBLE. When I read the book  Charles Darwin: his life told in an autobiographical chapter, and in a selected series of his published letters, I also read  a commentary on it by Francis Schaeffer and I wanted to both  quote some of Charles Darwin’s own words to you and then include the comments of Francis Schaeffer on those words. I have also enclosed a CD with two messages from Adrian Rogers and Bill Elliff concerning Darwinism.

Darwin, C. R. to Doedes, N. D.2 Apr 1873

“It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide…Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am aware that if we admit a First Cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it arose.”

Francis Schaeffer noted:

What he is saying is if you say there is a first cause, then the mind says, “Where did this come from?” I think this is a bit old fashioned, with some of the modern thinkers, this would not have carry as much weight today as it did when Darwin expressed it. Jean Paul Sartre said it as well as anyone could possibly say it. The philosophic problem is that something is there and not nothing being there. No one has the luxury of beginning with nothing. Nobody I have ever read has put forth that everything came from nothing. I have never met such a person in all my reading,or all my discussion. If you are going to begin with nothing being there, it has to be nothing nothing, and it can’t be something nothing. When someone says they believe nothing is there, in reality they have already built in something there. The only question is do you begin with an impersonal something or a personal something. All human thought is shut up to these two possibilities. Either you begin with an impersonal and then have Darwin’s own dilemma which impersonal plus chance, now he didn’t bring in the amount of time that modern man would though. Modern man has brought in huge amounts of time into the equation as though that would make a difference because I have said many times that time can’t make a qualitative difference but only a quantitative difference. The dilemma is it is either God or chance. Now you find this intriguing thing in Darwin’s own situation, he can’t understand how chance could have produced these two great factors of the universe and its form and the mannishness of man.

From Charles Darwin, Autobiography (1876), in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin, vol. 1 (London: John Murray, 1888), pp. 307 to 313.

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species, and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt…”

Francis Schaeffer commented:

On the basis of his reason he has to say there must be an intelligent mind, someone analogous to man. You couldn’t describe the God of the Bible better. That is man is made in God’s image  and therefore, you know a great deal about God when you know something about man. What he is really saying here is that everything in my experience tells me it must be so, and my mind demands it is so. Not just these feelings he talked about earlier but his MIND demands it is so, but now how does he counter this? How does he escape this? Here is how he does it!!!

Charles Darwin went on to observe:  —can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?”

Francis Schaeffer asserted:

So he says my mind can only come to one conclusion, and that is there is a mind behind it all. However, the doubt comes because his mind has come from the lowest form of earthworm, so how can I trust my mind. But this is a joker isn’t it?  Then how can you trust his mind to support such a theory as this? He proved too much. The fact that Darwin found it necessary to take such an escape shows the tremendous weight of Romans 1, that the only escape he can make is to say how can I trust my mind when I come from the lowest animal the earthworm? Obviously think of the grandeur of his concept, I don’t think it is true, but the grandeur of his concept, so what you find is that Darwin is presenting something here that is wrong I feel, but it is not nothing. It is a tremendously grand concept that he has put forward. So he is accepting the dictates of his mind to put forth a grand concept which he later can’t accept in this basic area with his reason, but he rejects what he could accept with his reason on this escape. It really doesn’t make sense. This is a tremendous demonstration of the weakness of his own position.

Darwin also noted, “I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”

Francis Schaeffer remarked:

What a stupid reply and I didn’t say wicked. It just seems to me that here is 2 plus 2 equals 36 at this particular place.

Darwin, C. R. to Graham, William 3 July 1881

Nevertheless you have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance.* But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

Francis Schaeffer observed:

Can you feel this man? He is in real agony. You can feel the whole of modern man in this tension with Darwin. My mind can’t accept that ultimate of chance, that the universe is a result of chance. He has said 3 or 4 times now that he can’t accept that it all happened by chance and then he will write someone else and say something different. How does he say this (about the mind of a monkey) and then put forth this grand theory? Wrong theory I feel but great just the same. Grand in the same way as when I look at many of the paintings today and I differ with their message but you must say the mark of the mannishness of man are one those paintings titanic-ally even though the message is wrong and this is the same with Darwin.  But how can he say you can’t think, you come from a monkey’s mind, and you can’t trust a monkey’s mind, and you can’t trust a monkey’s conviction, so how can you trust me? Trust me here, but not there is what Darwin is saying. In other words it is very selective. 

Now we are down to the last year of Darwin’s life.

* The Duke of Argyll (Good Words, April 1885, p. 244) has recorded a few words on this subject, spoken by my father in the last year of his life. “. . . in the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference to some of his own remarkable works on the Fertilisation of Orchids, and upon The Earthworms,and various other observations he made of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature—I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and the expression of mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin’s answer. He looked at me very hard and said, ‘Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,’ and he shook his head vaguely, adding, ‘it seems to go away.'”

Francis Schaeffer summarized :

And this is the great Darwin, and it makes you cry inside. This is the great Darwin and he ends as a man in total tension.

Francis Schaeffer noted that in Darwin’s 1876 Autobiography that Darwin he is going to set forth two arguments for God in this and again you will find when he comes to the end of this that he is in tremendous tension. Darwin wrote, 

At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons.Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to (although I do not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in me), to the firm conviction of the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, ‘it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion which fill and elevate the mind.’ I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body; but now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man who has become colour-blind.

Francis Schaeffer remarked:

Now Darwin says when I look back and when I look at nature I came to the conclusion that man can not be just a fly! But now Darwin has moved from being a younger man to an older man and he has allowed his presuppositions to enter in to block his logic. These things at the end of his life he had no intellectual answer for. To block them out in favor of his theory. Remember the letter of his that said he had lost all aesthetic senses when he had got older and he had become a clod himself. Now interesting he says just the same thing, but not in relation to the arts, namely music, pictures, etc, but to nature itself. Darwin said, “But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions  and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man who has become colour-blind…” So now you see that Darwin’s presuppositions have not only robbed him of the beauty of man’s creation in art, but now the universe. He can’t look at it now and see the beauty. The reason he can’t see the beauty is for a very, very , very simple reason: THE BEAUTY DRIVES HIM TO DISTRACTION. THIS IS WHERE MODERN MAN IS AND IT IS HELL. The art is hell because it reminds him of man and how great man is, and where does it fit in his system? It doesn’t. When he looks at nature and it’s beauty he is driven to the same distraction and so consequently you find what has built up inside him is a real death, not  only the beauty of the artistic but the beauty of nature. He has no answer in his logic and he is left in tension.  He dies and has become less than human because these two great things (such as any kind of art and the beauty of  nature) that would make him human  stand against his theory.


DO THESE WORDS OF DARWIN APPLY TO YOU TODAY? “I am like a man who has become colour-blind.”  As a secularist you believe that it is sad indeed that millions of Christians are hoping for heaven but no heaven is waiting for them. Paul took a close look at this issue too. I Corinthians 15 asserts:

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I sent you a CD that starts off with the song DUST IN THE WIND by Kerry Livgren of the group KANSAS which was a hit song in 1978 when it rose to #6 on the charts because so many people connected with the message of the song. It included these words, “All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see, Dust in the Wind, All we are is dust in the wind, Don’t hang on, Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and Sky, It slips away, And all your money won’t another minute buy.”

Kerry Livgren himself said that he wrote the song because he saw where man was without a personal God in the picture. Solomon pointed out in the Book of Ecclesiastes that those who believe that God doesn’t exist must accept three things. FIRST, death is the end and SECOND, chance and time are the only guiding forces in this life.  FINALLY, power reigns in this life and the scales are never balanced. The Christian can  face death and also confront the world knowing that it is not determined by chance and time alone and finally there is a judge who will balance the scales.

Both Kerry Livgren and the bass player Dave Hope of Kansas became Christians eventually. Kerry Livgren first tried Eastern Religions and Dave Hope had to come out of a heavy drug addiction. I was shocked and elated to see their personal testimony on The 700 Club in 1981 and that same  interview can be seen on You Tube today. Livgren lives in Topeka, Kansas today where he teaches “Diggers,” a Sunday school class at Topeka Bible ChurchDAVE HOPE is the head of Worship, Evangelism and Outreach at Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin, Florida.

The answer to find meaning in life is found in putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible is true from cover to cover and can be trusted.

Thank you again for your time and I know how busy you are.

Everette Hatcher,,, cell ph 501-920-5733, Box 23416, LittleRock, AR 72221, United States


Is the Bible historically accurate? Here are some of the posts I have done in the past on the subject: 1. The Babylonian Chronicleof Nebuchadnezzars Siege of Jerusalem2. Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription. 3. Taylor Prism (Sennacherib Hexagonal Prism)4. Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically. 5. The Discovery of the Hittites6.Shishak Smiting His Captives7. Moabite Stone8Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III9A Verification of places in Gospel of John and Book of Acts., 9B Discovery of Ebla Tablets10. Cyrus Cylinder11. Puru “The lot of Yahali” 9th Century B.C.E.12. The Uzziah Tablet Inscription13. The Pilate Inscription14. Caiaphas Ossuary14 B Pontius Pilate Part 214c. Three greatest American Archaeologists moved to accept Bible’s accuracy through archaeology.

You can hear DAVE HOPE and Kerry Livgren’s stories from this youtube link:

(part 1 ten minutes)

(part 2 ten minutes)

Kansas – Dust in the Wind (Official Video)

Uploaded on Nov 7, 2009

Pre-Order Miracles Out of Nowhere now at

About the film:
In 1973, six guys in a local band from America’s heartland began a journey that surpassed even their own wildest expectations, by achieving worldwide superstardom… watch the story unfold as the incredible story of the band KANSAS is told for the first time in the DVD Miracles Out of Nowhere.


Adrian Rogers on Darwinism

Vilayanur Ramachandran [10.17.04]

At a recent memorial service and celebration of Francis Crick at the Salk Institute, V.S. Ramachandran, was among the speakers (others included Sydney Brenner and Jim Watson). The title of Rama’s talk, “The Astonishing Francis Crick”, is from the recent “Francis Crick Memorial Lecture” he gave at the center for the philosophical foundations of science in New Delhi, India, at the invitation of Professor Ranjit Nair.

V.S. RAMACHANDRAN is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and professor with the Psychology Department and the Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. He is the coauthor (with Sandra Blakeslee) of Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind.

V.S. Ramachandran’s Edge Bio Page


Ramachandran: The word “genius” is rarely used these days yet few would deny the aptness of that term for Francis Crick. Indeed, most historians of science would agree that he was the greatest biologist of the twentieth century.

Everyone knows that Crick (along with his colleague James Watson) unraveled the double helical structure of the DNA molecule but not everyone appreciates the even greater contributions he made soon afterwards. He went on to decipher the genetic code (three nucleotides coding for an amino acid; the mechanism of DNA replication, the transcription of the code by mRNA and its subsequent translation into amino acid sequences mediated by transfer RNA) With these achievements in place Crick soon came to be regarded as the founder of the new science of molecular biology and occupied the same place in twentieth century Science as Darwin did in the 19th century.

The history of ideas in the last few centuries has been punctuated by major upheavals in thought that have turned our world-view upside down and created what Thomas Kuhn called “scientific revolutions”. The first of these was the Copernican revolution that far from being the center of the universe the earth is a mere speck of dust revolving around the sun. Second came Darwin’s insight that we humans do not represent the pinnacle of creation—we are merely hairless neotonous apes that happen to be slightly cleverer than our cousins. Third, the Freudian revolution…the view that our behavior is governed largely by a cauldron of unconscious motives and desires. Fourth, Crick and Watsons’ elucidation of DNAs structure and the genetic code, banishing vitalism forever from science.

And now, thanks once again partly to Crick, we are poised for the greatest revolution of all—understanding consciousness—understanding the very mechanism that made those earlier revolutions possible! As Crick often reminded us, it’s a sobering thought that all our motives, emotions, desires, cherished values and ambitions—even  what each of us regards as his very own “self”—are merely the activity of a hundred billion tiny wisps of jelly in the brain. He referred to this as the “astonishing hypothesis”—the title of his last book. (Echoed by Jim Watson’s quip “There are only molecules—everything else is sociology”).

Crick’s contributions to molecular biology are too well known to require repetition here. I will, instead, just mention a few anecdotes which, I hope, will convey the spirit of the man. He was without any doubt the most amazing person I have known. He loomed large like a colossus over the entire La Jolla neuroscience community and was a formidable—but always welcome—presence at seminars. His intolerance for sloppy thinking was widely feared by speakers visiting from the East coast. “Politeness is the poison of all good collaboration in science,” he once said.

Watson’s famous opening line “I have never met Francis Crick in a modest mood” is now part of the folklore of science. Yet he was, at heart, extraordinarily modest, although he would sometimes inadvertently give the impression of being arrogant. I remember the time when he was writing a book on neuroscience intended for a broad audience. He phoned me and sounded a bit agitated. “I have sent a first draft to my editor, Rama”, he said. “She feels it’s well written but that its still too full of jargon and technical language and suggested that I pass it around to a layman to get some feedback”. He then paused and added “Rama, the trouble is I don’t know any laymen…do you know any layman I could show it to?” It’s easy to see how a remark such as this could have been misconstrued as arrogance, even though he was being perfectly honest! He was arrogant not so much towards his colleagues as towards nature herself as he tried to wrest away her deepest secrets.

I should add, though, that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He abhorred shoddy thinking and was suspicious of “modeling” that was not informed by biological constraints. I recall a time—in the eighties—when a scientist from MIT was telling Crick about his model for some aspect of brain function. Upon seeing Crick’s vehement, exasperated nods of disapproval, the young man said “But Dr. Crick, my model is pretty and it works”, to which Crick replied, “My dear chap, that’s a criterion you would use for selling a vacuum cleaner—I don’t see what it has to do with the brain.”

He had very little patience with orthodox philosophers. He felt they became too prematurely trapped in matters of terminology. I am reminded of a seminar on consciousness he gave at the Salk in the eighties. A philosopher—whose name politeness forbids me from mentioning—raised his hand and said “But Dr Crick … you are attempting to solve the so-called problem of consciousness yet you haven’t even bothered to define it…can you clearly define what you are talking about?” Crick’s reply: “My dear chap, there was never a time in the pre-DNA era when a lot of us biologists sat around the table and said ‘Let us first clearly define life before we explore it’. We just went out there, forged ahead and found out what it was. It’s no doubt good to have a rough idea of what one is talking about but matters of terminology are best left to philosophers who spend most of their time on such things. Indeed clear definitions often emerge from empirical research. We now no longer quibble over questions like is a virus really alive”. Semantic hygiene, Crick felt, was largely a waste of time.

Through most of his career Crick wisely steered clear of administrative responsibilities—in fact he regarded administrators and bureaucrats as mainly a nuisance and impediment to his research. Yet he surprised everyone (including himself) when he accepted an appointment as president of the Salk, and discharged his duties admirably, a tradition being continued by Dr. Richard A. Murphy.

Crick was also an outstanding seminar speaker frequently sought after for his erudition, eloquence, pugnacity and wit. But even in a public forum he was reluctant to completely avoid all technical terms, for fear of oversimplifying the complexities of brain function. I remember after a fundraiser at UCSD he was approached by a lady during the cocktail reception. “All this stuff on the brain is interesting, Dr. Crick”, she said, “but can you name any one single discovery in the last two decades that has really important implications?” “Well, my dear, “replied Crick, “one thing we have now learnt is that the brain is really plastic”. The lady fainted.

I would be remiss not to add that my own career in neuroscience and those of many of my colleagues here at UCSD has benefited enormously from having had Crick as a colleague. His influence has been felt in many different ways. First, he and Koch have made the scientific study of consciousness respectable and in so doing, played a key role in making UCSD and the Salk the nation’s preeminent centers for research in cognitive neuroscience. Second, he was instrumental in having many of us in neuroscience and psychology move to La Jolla in the early eighties—transforming it into “neuron valley” (He had the foresight to bring Terry Sejnowsky and the Churchlands to UCSD at a time when the kinds of topics they worked on were not considered especially fashionable). We all thought of him as a great Sequoia tree under whose branches many of us saplings eked out a precarious living. And third, the most important lesson I learned from him on research strategy was—as I tell my students—that it is better to tackle ten fundamental problems and succeed in only one, than to tackle ten trivial ones and solve them all! (So obvious when stated, yet so difficult to practice)  Beware of getting trapped in narrow cul-de-sacs of specialization no matter how many pats in the back you get from colleagues.

Crick played a direct role in the intellectual development of CHIP (Center for Human Information Processing—now renamed CBC—Center for Brain and Cognition) which was a brainchild of George Mandler. Crick’s lively discussions with Dave Rumelhart, Jay McLelland, Don Norman and Geoff Hinton in the late seventies set in motion the neural networks revolution, making UCSD a leader in the field of cognitive neuroscience. To honor his contributions to CBC/CHIP, Jim Kulik and I named the main seminar room (shared with Psychology) “The Francis Crick Conference Room”…with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Psychology Department and the university administration. The Crick Room has now become one of the main hubs of intellectual life on the campus.

Crick has been a tremendous inspiration to a whole generation of young students here in La Jolla and elsewhere. There are several hallmarks of his style of research that we would all do well to emulate… I’ll mention just two. First, sheer chutzpah; he pointed out that problems of fundamental importance in science are not necessarily more difficult than humdrum, trivial ones…”Nature isn’t conspiring against us to make important problems difficult”, he often said, “so given a finite life span, aim high—go after fundamental problems.” Second, those who met Crick for the first time were often struck by the sheer force of his passion and energy; even at 88 he was more passionate and ebullient about science than most of my younger students and colleagues. (I recall the time when he drove me back to La Jolla from Irvine after a full day Helmholtz Club symposium. It was 11 pm and I was dozing off but he—at 85—was gesticulating wildly airing his views on the Meynert cells. I remember saying to myself that it was this same tenacity and passion that lead him to crack the secret of life 40 years ago!). Science, for Crick, was always a love affair with nature—a grand romantic adventure.

It is difficult to imagine La Jolla without Francis Crick…He will be missed by all of us who knew him. Over the years his name has almost become synonymous with La Jolla neuroscience. His presence here was so powerful that upon hearing the sad news my son Mani said “It is hard to believe that anything—even death—could defeat Francis Crick.” What’s more, most of my colleagues would agree that apart from his superhuman intellect, he was also a wonderful human being (Two traits that don’t always coexist in the same individual, but did so in Crick). His warmth and generosity towards younger colleagues was widely appreciated. Odile and Francis were always gracious hosts at the numerous dinner parties they held in their home for friends, visiting speakers, and new faculty recruits.

Three weeks prior to his death, I visited him in his home in La Jolla. He was 88, had terminal cancer, was in pain and was on chemotherapy, yet he had obviously been working away non-stop on his latest project. His very large desk …occupying half the room—was covered by articles, correspondence, envelopes, recent issues of Nature, a lap-top ( despite his dislike of computers) and recent books on neuroanatomy. During the whole two hours that I was visiting there was no mention of his illness…only a flight of ideas on the neural basis of consciousness. He was especially interested in a tiny structure called the claustrum which, he felt, had been largely ignored by mainstream pundits. As I was leaving he said “Rama, I think the secret of consciousness lies in the claustrum—don’t you? Why else would this one tiny structure be connected to so many areas in the brain?”—and he gave me a sly, conspiratorial wink. It was the last time I saw him.

Crick is gone but if I might be allowed a cliché, he is immortal in spirit ( a word he would have loathed). The seeds he planted in the minds of hundreds of students and colleagues here in La Jolla will continue to take root, blossom, and bear fruit for centuries to come.

Here was a Francis Crick, when comes such another.

VS Ramachandran interviewed by Charlie Rose

Published on Dec 24, 2012

For educational purposes only.


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