Why are We Here? Simon Conway-Morris interview

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WaWH?: Simon Conway Morris

Quote:Ard: So another question that you were hinting at a little bit… We might unpack this one step at a time, so we’ll start with music. You’ve written a little bit about animals who do music, like humpback whales or nightingales, and you say they may be discovering music rather than evolution creating it itself. Did I get that right?

SCM: Well, thank you, yes. I need to first of all emphasise that the observations on the convergence of animal music, and potentially some of the metaphysical implications, derive directly from a wonderful essay written by Patricia Gray and colleagues which was published in Science some years ago.

In essence, what we know is many animals can vocalise, and there’s a major question whether our language is simply an extrapolation of that vocalisation. I rather think it’s not, but that’s very, very controversial, of course. But undoubtedly many animals can sing, and of course the songbirds are the most famous; the humpback whale, they too have a music in the males and so forth. And in many cases music is probably linked to sexual selection. In other cases, I believe, even with the humpback whale, it’s not entirely clear why they have this music. But the point about it, which as Patricia Gray and colleagues point out, is first of all this music is alarmingly analogous to our music, in as much as it uses melodies and harmonies, and they can exchange songs between different groups, for instance amongst the whales and so forth.

And what I found so extraordinary about this particular essay is that they then had this wonderful leap of imagination. I mean this in the most positive way. And they said, well, it’s all very well explaining these convergences in terms of vibration of columns of air. That’s fine – a bit like a bassoon or a trumpet. But supposing, as they said, there’s a ‘universal music’ out there, and in a sense the music is discovering this universal music.

And as I’ve said in many other contexts, this is not a universal ‘hmmmm’ – it’s the music of Mozart. And I’m not saying that birds and whales are Mozarts, or on their way to becoming Mozarts, but there’s something deeper about the music and why it’s so essential to us. It’s not just a tune.

David: Are you suggesting that certain kind of ideas, like music or mathematics, that they exist separately from the stuff of the universe.

SCM: That’s a possibility, yes.

Quote:SCM: My intuition, again, is that the mind is something which is discovered.


SCM: The general idea, of course, is that the brain and the mind are basically the same thing.

SCM: I mean, it’s pretty clear to all of us that you don’t have a mind without a brain.

Ard: Yeah.

SCM
: But is the brain the entire explanation of what is mind? And you could point out, so far as we know, that when you die, then you stop thinking and so on and so forth. But on the other hand, you can regard the explanations of consciousness which depend merely on neurological complexity as woefully inadequate. The analogy which I prefer is rather than brains making mind: brains facilitate minds, brains filter mind. But the idea here is the mind, again, is part of an orthogonal reality.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2023-10-28, 09:40 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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