What is truth?

Posts tagged ‘Philosophy of Mind’

How the light gets out

Scientific talks can get a little dry, so I try to mix it up. I take out my giant hairy orangutan puppet, do some ventriloquism and quickly become entangled in an argument. I’ll be explaining my theory about how the brain — a biological machine — generates consciousness. Kevin, the orangutan, starts heckling me. ‘Yeah, well, I don’t have a brain. But I’m still conscious. What does that do to your theory?’

Kevin is the perfect introduction. Intellectually, nobody is fooled: we all know that there’s nothing inside. But everyone in the audience experiences an illusion of sentience emanating from his hairy head. The effect is automatic: being social animals, we project awareness onto the puppet. Indeed, part of the fun of ventriloquism is experiencing the illusion while knowing, on an intellectual level, that it isn’t real.

Many thinkers have approached consciousness from a first-person vantage point, the kind of philosophical perspective according to which other people’s minds seem essentially unknowable. And yet, as Kevin shows, we spend a lot of mental energy attributing consciousness to other things. ……………………..

full article at source:http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/how-consciousness-works/

 

 

 

A honours degree in mathematics with “no detectable brain”?

Consciousness

The predominant view amongst neuroscientists is that human consciousness is a product of the electrical activity of the brain. They call it an “emergent property” of grey matter. The basic assumption there is that if you take approximately 100 billion nerve cells and you wire them together through a prodigious network of connection, consciousness somehow “emerges” spontaneously from that complexity. One neuron is not conscious, but 100 billion, taken together, are.

 

This materialist theory of consciousness is up against some formidable challenges, all happily ignored by the mainstream materialist neuroscientists. First and foremost, there is a fundamental logic obstacle known as the “explanatory gap”. In two words: Can a motorcycle fly? Obviously not. Can 100 billion of them fly? No, they still can’t. So then, how is it that an unconscious piece of matter – a nerve cell – becomes conscious if connected to other equally unconscious pieces of matter?

 

There are a lot more challenges to the mind = brain equation, and some are so huge, so self-evident that they should force a little reflection on the part of our materialist colleagues. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen much. With this post, I will tell you about one of these formidable challenges. More will come in future posts.

 

In April 2007, Science, possibly the most reputed scientific journal on the planet, came out with an interesting – to say the least – article. It tells about the remarkable research conducted at the University of Sheffield by neurology professor the late Dr. John Lorber.

 

“There’s a young student at this university,” says Lorber, “who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.” The student’s physician at the university noticed that the youth had a slightly larger than normal head, and so referred him to Lorber, simply out of interest. “When we did a brain scan on him,” Lorber recalls, “we saw that instead of the normal 4.5-centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeter or so. His cranium is filled mainly with cerebrospinal fluid.”

The student was suffering from hydrocephalus, the condition in which the cerebrospinal fluid, instead of circulating around the brain and entering the bloodstream, becomes dammed up inside.

 

Normally, the condition is fatal in the first months of childhood. Even where an individual survives he or she is usually seriously handicapped. Somehow, though, the Sheffield student had lived a perfectly normal life and went on to gain an honours degree in mathematics. This case is by no means as rare as it seems.

 

In 1970, a New Yorker died at the age of 35. He had left school with no academic achievements, but had worked at manual jobs such as building janitor, and was a popular figure in his neighbourhood. Tenants of the building where he worked described him as passing the days performing his routine chores, such as tending the boiler, and reading the tabloid newspapers. When an autopsy was performed to determine the cause of his premature death he, too, was found to have practically no brain at all. Professor Lorber has identified several hundred people who have very small cerebral hemispheres but who appear to be normal intelligent individuals. Some of them he describes as having ‘no detectable brain’, yet they have scored up to 120 on IQ tests.

 

No-one knows how people with ‘no detectable brain’ are able to function at all, let alone to graduate in mathematics. That is, if one assumes that mind function are solely the product of the physical brain…

full article source: http://www.drparisetti.com/2012/10/16/a-honours-degree-in-mathematics-with-no-detectable-brain/#permalink

 

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