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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Feb 24, 2021

Dip below the ocean’s surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals, and serpulidae worms, whose rooted bodies, intricate geometry, and flower-like appendages are more reminiscent of plant life or even architecture than anything recognizably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. And, scuba-diving philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith asserted, as fellow members of the animal kingdom, they can teach us much about the evolutionary origins of not only our bodies but also our minds.

In this presentation, Godfrey-Smith joined us with findings from his book Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind. Following his acclaimed book Other Minds about the mind of the octopus, he expanded his inquiry to animals at large. He delved into what it feels like to perceive and interact with the world as other life-forms do. Following the evolutionary paths of a glass sponge, soft coral, banded shrimp, octopus, and fish, then moving onto land, the world of insects, birds, and primates, Godfrey-Smith gathered their stories to address one of the most vexing philosophical problems: that of consciousness.

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. He is the author of the bestselling Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, which has been published in more than twenty languages. His other books include Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science and Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, which won the 2010 Lakatos Award.

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