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Profile: Alfred Gierer
  1. A Theory of Biological Pattern Formation.Alfred Gierer & Hans Meinhardt - 1972 - Kybernetik, Continued as Biological Cybernetics 12 (1):30 - 39.
    The paper addresses the formation of striking patterns within originally near-homogenous tissue, the process prototypical for embryology, and represented in particularly purist form by cut sections of hydra regenerating, by internal reorganisation of the pre-existing tissue, a complete animal with head and foot. The essential requirements are autocatalytic, self-enhancing activation, combined with inhibitory or depletion effects of wider range – “lateral inhibition”. Not only de-novo-pattern formation, but also well known, striking features of developmental regulation such as induction, inhibition, and proportion (...)
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  2.  38
    (2017) Über Wolfgang Pauli - Quantenphysik, Verständnis der Natur und die Rolle der Psyche.Alfred Gierer - manuscript
    An abstract in English is included in the download. Wolfgang Pauli war einer der Grossen unter den Physikern des 20. Jahrhunderts, nicht ganz so berühmt wie Heisenberg und Einstein, aber annähernd ebenso bedeutend. Er war es, der bei der Entwicklung der Quantenphysik das sogenannte Ausschließungsprinzip entdeckte und damit den Weg zu unserem physikalischen Grundverständnis der ganzen Chemie eröffnete. Seine Gedanken galten aber auch hintergründigen wissenschaftsphilosophischen Fragen, und die gängigen Auffassungen über die Rolle von Vernunft und Materialismus in der Naturwissenschaft waren (...)
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  3. Ibn Khaldun on Solidarity (“Asabiyah”)-Modern Science on Cooperativeness and Empathy: A Comparison.Alfred Gierer - 2001 - Philosophia Naturalis 38 (1):91-104.
    Understanding cooperative human behaviour depends on insights into the biological basis of human altruism, as well as into socio-cultural development. In terms of evolutionary theory, kinship and reciprocity are well established as underlying cooperativeness. Reasons will be given suggesting an additional source, the capability of a cognition-based empathy that may have evolved as a by-product of strategic thought. An assessment of the range, the intrinsic limitations, and the conditions for activation of human cooperativeness would profit from a systems approach combining (...)
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  4. (2015) Scientific Rationality, Human Consciousness, and Pro-Religious Ideas.Alfred Gierer - manuscript
    The essay discusses immanent versus transcendent concepts in the context of the art of living, as well as the understanding of human consciousness in the context of religion. Science provides us with a far reaching understanding of natural processes, including biological evolution, but also with deep insights into its own intrinsic limitations. This is consistent with more than one interpretation on the “metatheoretical“, that is on the philosophical and cultural level, including liberal, enlightened forms of religion as well as agnostic (...)
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  5. (2016) Meister Eckhart, der "Seelengrund", und das Verständnis von Bewusstsein.Alfred Gierer - manuscript
    An English translation of the essay is included in the download. In diesem Essay geht es um ein religionsfreundliches Selbst- und Weltverständnis, das die Reichweite der menschlichen Vernunft ebenso wie deren intrinsische Grenzen achtet. In dem weiten Feld wählen wir hier Betrachtungen des mittelalterlichen Philosophen und Theologen Meister Eckhart aus, beginnen aber mit einigen Grundthesen zur Beziehung von Wissenschaft, menschlichem Bewusstsein und Religion. Modern science led to a far reaching understanding of the natural order, and yet it does not, in (...)
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  6.  23
    Model for DNA and Protein Interactions and the Function of the Operator.Alfred Gierer - 1966 - Nature 212:1480-1481.
    The short paper introduces the concept of possible branches of double-stranded DNA (later sometimes called palindromes): Certain sequences of nucleotides may be followed, after a short unpaired stretch, by a complementary sequence in reversed order, such that each DNA strand can fold back on itself, and the DNA assumes a cruciform or tree-like structure. This is postulated to interact with regulatory proteins. -/- .
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  7. Production of Mutants of Tobacco Mosaic Virus by Chemical Alteration of its Nucleic Acid in Vitro.Alfred Gierer & K. W. Mundry - 1958 - Nature 182:1457-1458.
    The generation of viral mutants in vitro was demonstrated by treatment of the isolated RNA of Tobacco Mosaic Virus by nitrous acid. This agent causes deaminations converting cytosine into uracil, and adenine into hypoxanthine. Our assay for mutagenesis was the production of local lesions on a tobacco variety on which the untreated strain produces systemic infections only. A variety of different mutants are generated in this way. Quantitative analysis of the kinetics of mutagenesis leads to the conclusion that alteration of (...)
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  8. Generation of Biological Patterns and Form: Some Physical, Mathematical and Logical Aspects.Alfred Gierer - 1981 - Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 37 (1):1-48.
    While many different mechanisms contribute to the generation of spatial order in biological development, the formation of morphogenetic fields which in turn direct cell responses giving rise to pattern and form are of major importance and essential for embryogenesis and regeneration. Most likely the fields represent concentration patterns of substances produced by molecular kinetics. Short range autocatalytic activation in conjunction with longer range “lateral” inhibition or depletion effects is capable of generating such patterns (Gierer and Meinhardt, 1972). Non-linear reactions are (...)
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  9. The Hydra Model - a Model for What?Alfred Gierer - 2012 - International Journal of Developmental Biology 56:437-445.
    The introductory personal remarks refer to my motivations for choosing research projects, and for moving from physics to molecular biology and then to development, with Hydra as a model system. Historically, Trembley’s discovery of Hydra regeneration in 1744 was the begin¬ning of developmental biology as we understand it, with passionate debates about preformation versus de novo generation, mechanisms versus organisms. In fact, seemingly conflicting bottom-up and top-down concepts are both required in combination to understand development. In modern terms, this means (...)
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  10.  83
    Socioeconomic Inequalities: Effects of Self-Enhancement, Depletion and Redistribution.Alfred Gierer - 1981 - Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie Und Statistik 196 (4):309-331.
    Socioeconomic inequalities are functions not only of intrinsic differences between persons or groups, but also of the dynamics of their interactions. Inequalities can arise and become stabilized if there are advantages (such as generalized wealth including “human capital”) which are self-enhancing, whereas depletion of limiting resources is widely distributed. A recent theory of biological pattern formation has been generalized, adapted and applied to deal with this process. Applications include models for the non-Gaussian distribution of personal income and wealth, for overall (...)
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  11. Godel Meets Carnap: A Prototypical Discourse on Science and Religion.Alfred Gierer - 1997 - Zygon 32 (2):207-217.
    Modern science, based on the laws of physics, claims validity for all events in space and time. However, it also reveals its own limitations, such as the indeterminacy of quantum physics, the limits of decidability, and, presumably, limits of decodability of the mind-brain relationship. At the philosophical level, these intrinsic limitations allow for different interpretations of the relation between human cognition and the natural order. In particular, modern science may be logically consistent with religious as well as agnostic views of (...)
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  12.  80
    Structure and Biological Function of Ribonucleic Acid From Tobacco Mosaic Virus.Alfred Gierer - 1957 - Nature 179:1297-1299.
    Within the sedimentation diagram of infective RNA preparations isolated from Tobacco Mosaic Virus, undegraded molecules form a sharp peak with a molecular weight corresponding to the total RNA content of the virus particle. Degradation kinetics by ribonuclease is of the linear, single-target type, indicating that the RNA is single-stranded. The intact RNA of a virus particle thus forms one big single-stranded molecule. Quantitative evaluation of the effect degradation by RNA-ase on the infectivity of the RNA shows that the integrity of (...)
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  13. Mit Schiller gegen den "Egoismus der Vernunft".Alfred Gierer - 2012 - In preprint series, Max-Planck_Institute for the history of science. MPI for the History of Science. pp. preprint 424, 1-22.
    Abstract in English: The short essay is about impressive philosophical ideas of the great German dramatist Friedrich Schiller (1749-1805). In his “letters on the aesthetic education…” he critisizes, with respect to human behaviour, too much reason and too stringent principles, leading to a neglect of positive emotions such as empathy; he argues in favour of an aesthetic lifestyle. This is supported by biological as well as mental aspects of human self-understanding. My article follows these lines of thought in a sequence (...)
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  14.  71
    Function of Aggregated Reticulocyte Ribosomes in Protein Synthesis.Alfred Gierer - 1963 - J. Mol. Biol 6:148-157.
    Applying mild methods of preparation, part of the ribosomes of rabbit reticulocytes are found in aggregates (later called polyribosomes) of up to six ribosomal units. Upon treatment with RNA-ase, they desintegrate into single ribosomes. The fast-sedimenting aggregates are found to be more active in protein synthesis in terms of incorporation of radioactive amino acids, whereas the single ribosomes are more receptive to stimulation by the artificial messenger RNA poly-U. The findings indicate that the linkage of ribosomes into aggregates is due (...)
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  15.  95
    Human Brain Evolution, Theories of Innovation, and Lessons From the History of Technology.Alfred Gierer - 2004 - J. Biosci 29 (3):235-244.
    Biological evolution and technological innovation, while differing in many respects, also share common features. In particular, implementation of a new technology in the market is analogous to the spreading of a new genetic trait in a population. Technological innovation may occur either through the accumulation of quantitative changes, as in the development of the ocean clipper, or it may be initiated by a new combination of features or subsystems, as in the case of steamships. Other examples of the latter type (...)
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  16. Brain, Mind and Limitations of a Scientific Theory of Human Consciousness.Alfred Gierer - 2008 - Bioessays 30 (5):499-505.
    In biological terms, human consciousness appears as a feature associated with the func- tioning of the human brain. The corresponding activities of the neural network occur strictly in accord with physical laws; however, this fact does not necessarily imply that there can be a comprehensive scientific theory of conscious- ness, despite all the progress in neurobiology, neuropsychology and neurocomputation. Pre- dictions of the extent to which such a theory may become possible vary widely in the scien- tific community. There are (...)
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  17.  75
    Wissenschaft, Religion und die deutungsoffenen Grundfragen der Biologie.Alfred Gierer - 2009 - In preprint series max planck institute for the history os science. mpi history of science. pp. preprint 388, 1-21.
    The full text of this essay is available in an English translation (also in philpapers) under: Alfred Gierer, Science, religion, and basic biological issues that are open to interpretation. Range and limits of science are given by the universal validity of physical laws, and by intrinsic limitations, especially in self-referential contexts. In particular, neurobiology should not be expected to provide a full understanding of consciousness and the mind. Science cannot provide, by itself, an unambiguous interpretation of the natural order at (...)
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  18.  59
    Infectivity of Ribonucleic Acid From Tobacco Mosaic Virus.Alfred Gierer & Gerhard Schramm - 1956 - Nature 177:702-703.
    Upon separation of the protein from the nucleic acid component of tobacco mosaic virus by phenol, using a fast and gentle procedure, the nucleic acid is infective in assays on tobacco leaves. A series of qualitative and quantitative control experiments demonstrates that the biological activity cannot depend on residual proteins in the preparation, but is a property of isolated nucleic acid which is thus the genetic material of the virus.
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  19.  47
    Biologie, Menschenbild und die knappe Ressource „Gemeinsinn“.Alfred Gierer - 2002 - In Harald Bluhm & Herfried Münkler (eds.), Gemeinwohl Und Gemeinsinn: Zwischen Normativität Und Faktizität. De Gruyter. pp. 19-36.
    Unsere Kulturfähigkeit ist ein Ergebnis der biologischen Evolution der Spezies “Mensch”; die einzelne Kultur selbst jedoch ist ein Produkt gesellschaftlicher Entwicklungen, Differenzierungen und Traditionen. Der Kulturvergleich zeigt uns erhebliche Spielräume für Ausprägungen von Gemeinsinn. Da dessen Aktivierung wesentlich zur Lebensqualität einer Gesellschaft beiträgt, sind Versuche einer realistischen Einschätzung kultureller Gestaltungsspielräume in dieser Hinsicht sinnvoll. Sie sind nicht zuletzt durch die biologischen Grund- und Randbedingungen der Spezies Mensch gegeben und begrenzt, zumal hinsichtlich von Anlagen zu altruistischem und kooperativem Verhalten. Während bis (...)
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  20.  4
    Networks of Gene Regulation, Neural Development and the Evolution of General Capabilities, Such as Human Empathy.Alfred Gierer - 1998 - Zeitschrift Für Naturforschung C - A Journal of Bioscience 53:716-722.
    A network of gene regulation organized in a hierarchical and combinatorial manner is crucially involved in the development of the neural network, and has to be considered one of the main substrates of genetic change in its evolution. Though qualitative features may emerge by way of the accumulation of rather unspecific quantitative changes, it is reasonable to assume that at least in some cases specific combinations of regulatory parts of the genome initiated new directions of evolution, leading to novel capabilities (...)
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  21.  59
    Relation Between Neurophysiological and Mental States: Possible Limits of Decodability.Alfred Gierer - 1983 - Naturwissenschaften 70:282-287.
    Validity of physical laws for any aspect of brain activity and strict correlation of mental to physical states of the brain do not imply, with logical necessity, that a complete algorithmic theory of the mind-body relation is possible. A limit of decodability may be imposed by the finite number of possible analytical operations which is rooted in the finiteness of the world. It is considered as a fundamental intrinsic limitation of the scientific approach comparable to quantum indeterminacy and the theorems (...)
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  22.  54
    The Physical Foundation of Biology and the Problems of Psychophysics.Alfred Gierer - 1970 - Ratio 12:47-64.
    Full applicability of physics to human biology does not necessarily imply that one can uncover a comprehensive, algorithmic correlation between physical brain states and corresponding mental states. The argument takes into account that information processing is finite in principle in a finite world. Presumbly the brain-mind-relation cannot be resolved in all essential aspects, particularly when high degrees of abstraction or self-analytical processes are involved. Our conjecture plausibly unifies the universal validity of physics and a logical limitation of human thought, and (...)
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  23.  25
    Regeneration of Hydra From Aggregated Cells.Alfred Gierer, S. Berking, H. Bode, C. N. David, K. Flick, G. Hansmann, H. Schaller & E. Trenkner - 1972 - Nature New Biology 239:98-101.
    • Aggregates of previously isolated cells of Hydra are capable, under suitable solvant conditions, of regeneration forming complete animals. In a first stage, ecto- and endodermal cells sort out, producing the bilayered hollow structure characteristic of Hydra tissue; thereafter, heads are formed (even if the original cell preparation contained no head cells), eventually leading to the separation of normal animals with head, body column and foot. Hydra appears to be the highest type of organism that allows for regeneration of the (...)
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  24.  32
    Holistic Biology: Back on Stage? Comments on Post-Genomics in Historical Perspective.Alfred Gierer - 2002 - Philosophia Naturalis 39 (1):25-44.
    A strong motivation for the human genome project was to relate biological features to the structure and function of small sets of genes, and ideally to individual genes. However, it is now increasingly realized that many problems require a "systems" approach emphasizing the interplay of large numbers of genes, and the involvement of complex networks of gene regulation. This implies a new emphasis on integrative, systems theoretical approaches. It may be called 'holistic' if the term is used without irrational overtones, (...)
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  25.  14
    On Modern Science, Human Cognition, and Cultural Diversity.Alfred Gierer - 2000 - In Preprint series, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. MPI for the History of Science. pp. Preprint 137, 1-16.
    The development of modern science has depended strongly on specific features of the cultures involved; however, its results are widely and trans-culturally accepted and applied. The science and technology of electricity provides a particularly interesting example. It emerged as a specific product of post-Renaissance Europe, rooted in the Greek philosophical tradition that encourages explanations of nature in theoretical terms. It did not evolve in China presumably because such encouragement was missing. The trans-cultural acceptance of modern science and technology is postulated (...)
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  26.  3
    Molekulare Theorie der Mikroreibung - Molecular theory of microfriction.Alfred Gierer & Karl Wirtz - 1953 - Zeitschrift Für Naturforschung Section A 8:532-538.
    The layers of a solvent liquid flowing around a moving molecule have a finite thickness corresponding to the finite dimensions of the solvent molecules. Taking this feature into account leads to a modification of Stokes’ laws of the relation between friction and viscosity in continuous media. We derive the observed order of magnitude of the microfriction, for rotation as well as translation, and its approximately correct dependence on the radii of moving and solvent molecules.
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  27.  6
    Was ist der Mensch?Alfred Gierer - 2008 - In D. Ganten, V. Gerhardt, J. Nida-Rümelin & J. C. Heilinger (eds.), Was ist der Mensch? Humanprojekt der BBAW. de Gruyter. pp. 103-105.
    Der Text ist eines von achtzig Kurzessays zum Thema „Was ist der Mensch“, zu denen unsere Arbeitsgruppe „Humanprojekt“ der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften eingeladen hat. So genau Aussagen inhaltlicher Naturwissenschaft oft sind, auf der metatheoretischen Ebene bleibt die Gesamtheit unseres Wissens, und damit auch die Stellung des Menschen in der Natur deutungsfähig und deutungsbedürftig; sie ist mit verschiedenen, natürlich nicht mit allen, philosophischen, kulturellen und religiösen Interpretationen vereinbar; erkenntnislogisch gesehen dürfen und können wir wählen. Worum es dabei eigentlich geht, ist (...)
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  28.  18
    Die Gedachte Natur Ursprünge der Modernen Wissenschaft.Alfred Gierer - 1998 - Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt.
    The explanation of nature in theoretical terms was first postulated and initiated by Ancient Greek philosophers. With the rise of monotheistic religions, however, curiosity about our transient world was widely regarded as contributing nothing to salvation. There was a decline in natural philosophy, which lasted for several centuries and was then reversed both in Islamic philosophy and in Christian theology in the Middle Ages. At this point, the "Book of Nature" was recognized as a complement to the Book of Revelation. (...)
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  29. die physik, das leben und die seele.Alfred Gierer - 1985 - Muenchen, Germany: piper.
    This book (in German) on "Physics, life and mind" is on the physical foundations of modern biology. The basic features of living systems, reproduction, mutation and metabolism, can be explained in terms of molecular processes involving nucleic acids as genetic material, and proteins as catalysts. The generation of structure and form in each generation results from spatiotemporal gene regulation in conjunction with the de novo formation of spatial order in which interplays of activation and inhibition play a crucial part. Brain (...)
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  30.  61
    Eriugena and alKindi, 9th Century Protagonists of Pro-Scientific Cultural Change.Alfred Gierer - 1999 - Abridged English translation of: Acta Historica Leopoldina 29.
    Ancient Greek philosophers were the first to postulate the possibility of explaining nature in theoretical terms and to initiate attempts at this. With the rise of monotheistic religions of revelation claiming supremacy over human reason and envisaging a new world to come, studies of the natural order of the transient world were widely considered undesirable. Later, in the Middle Ages, the desire for human understanding of nature in terms of reason was revived. This article is concerned with the fundamental reversal (...)
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  31. Eriugena, Al-Kindi, Nikolaus von Kues-Protagonisten einer wissenschaftsfreundlichen Wende im philosophischen und theologischen Denken. With summarizing English version.Alfred Gierer & Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina - 1999 - Acta Historica Leopoldina 29.
    Ancient Greek philosophers were the first to postulate the possibility of explaining nature in theoretical terms and to initiate attempts at this. With the rise of monotheistic religions of revelation claiming supremacy over human reason and envisaging a new world to come, studies of the natural order of the transient world were widely considered undesirable. Later, in the Middle Ages, the desire for human understanding of nature in terms of reason was revived. This article is concerned with the fundamental reversal (...)
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  32.  60
    Eriugena, al-Kindi, Nikolaus von Kues - Protagonisten einer wissenschaftsfreundlichen Wende im philosophischen und theologischen Denken.Alfred Gierer - 1999 - Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, Acta Historica Leopoldina 29.
    Naturwissenschaftliches Denken, wie es von altgriechischen Naturphilosophen begründet und in der Antike weiterentwickelt wurde, verfiel mit dem Aufstieg der monotheistischen Offenbarungsreligionen, die die Neugier auf die natürliche Wirklichkeit als eitle Bemühung ansahen, welche nichts zum Seelenheil beitrage. Die neuzeitliche Naturwissenschaft nahm ihren Ausgang in der Renaissance, die die kreativen Fähigkeiten des menschlichen Denkens wiederentdeckte. Sie verdankt aber auch sehr viel dem Aufbruch philosophisch-theologischen Denkens im Mittelalter, der dem „Buch der Natur“ eine Anerkennung als gleichberechtigten Zugang zur Wahrheit neben dem „Buch (...)
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  33. Im Spiegel der Natur Erkennen Wir Uns Selbst Wissenschaft Und Menschenbild.Alfred Gierer - 1998 - Rowohlt.
    The book on "Science and the image of man" pursues different pathways by way of which science contributes to the understanding of human beings as a species: the scope and limits of human cognition are revealed by the history and the mental structure of science in a more precise manner than by any other cultural effort. Insights into the evolution and function of the human brain elucidate the origin and the range of general human capabilities, such as language, self-representation and (...)
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  34. Science, Religion and Basic Biological Issues That Are Open to Interpretation.Alfred Gierer - 2009 - English Translation Of: Preprint 388, Mpi for History of Science.
    This is an English translation of my essay: Alfred Gierer Wissenschaft, Religion und die deutungsoffenen Grundfragen der Biologie. Mpi for the History of Science, preprint 388, 1-21, also in philpapers. Range and limits of science are given by the universal validity of physical laws, and by intrinsic limitations, especially in self-referential contexts. In particular, neurobiology should not be expected to provide a full understanding of consciousness and the mind. Science cannot provide, by itself, an unambiguous interpretation of the natural order (...)
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