Monday, July 13, 2009

Once again, brains and minds

Comment on “Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain” by David Robson:

The marvellous and fascinating work done by neurologists is marred by one basic fault: their refusal to realize that to study the brain is not to study the mind, which in turn arises from their failure to see that the mind is a reality in itself distinct from the objective stuff that is amenable to study by the empirical methods of science.

Scientists have no problem with working with the notion of our brain ‘operating on the edge of chaos’ or the notion of a state of ‘self-organized criticality’ as perfectly intelligible, but stall at the notion of a mind that has no being apart from the brain but that yet has a reality of its own and laws of its own.

We are supposed to find it not only believable, but in fact intelligible, that ‘the unpredictable world of chaos’ can produce a Mozart sonata, a Shakespeare sonnet, an Einsteinean equation. We are supposed to find that more acceptable than viewing the mind as creative.

“Researchers”, we are told, “built elaborate computational models to test the idea [of deterministic chaos], but unfortunately they did not behave like real brains.” Why? Not because they are not sufficiently elaborate or sufficiently refined, but because those fine computational models have no life in them, they may be perfect models of brains but not of minds.

Let me just forestall a possible misunderstanding: I am not speaking of a mind or soul separate from our body or brain but of the inner or subjective aspect of our being that is our proper, distinctive reality.

D. R. Khashaba


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