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Barriers in Neuroscience?

Bruce Gage gage at u.washington.edu
Thu Jun 1 15:56:11 EST 1995

Indeed it is difficult to see the picture when you are in the frame.  One 
wonders, however, what we may through the unity of our many minds might 
be able to discern.  However, then one would have to wonder whether any 
one mind could grasp that.  Sigh.

On 25 May 1995, Nick Maratheftis wrote:

>    Dear netserfers of neurosciences,
>  After I 've seen many messages about future and present neuroscience' s 
> triumphs, I decided to share with you the followings:
>  I quite agree that there will be some great discoveries in the future, but 
> we should also realize that there is a significant problem, some kind of  
> BARRIER IN OUR EFFORTS to understand our own mind' s nature. It is the 
> problem of a structure attempting to conceive its own structure. 
>  We can study some of the well defined procedures of human nature, but 
> how about the unconscious and transparent functions that guide us to think, 
> that guide us to feel and to conceive non material elements of our world? 
> When an anatomical structure is present and obvious (eg the autonomous 
> nervous system) then it's a bit easier to interpret and describe a certain 
> function, even if we are not consciously aware of it. But when we try to 
> enter, describe and analyze the higher mental procedures, things are 
> getting too tough for a brain (or many) to conceive. 
>    We all agree that there will be great progress in the future, but 
> I don' t think that we 'll ever be able to accurately interpret functions 
> and tendencies like inspiration, temperament, creativity etc. And beyond 
> this, there are other functions and operative mechanisms that we don't 
> even know they exist.  We can only suppose they exist. How can these 
> functions be explored?
>  You might say "we created instruments to hear far beyond 20000 Hz. 
> There is no limit in inventing  instruments. And we can always observe 
> someone else's brain activity. It' s just a matter of inventing the right 
> equipment or the right method of observation".
>   Don't you  sometimes feel that a subject loses its original meaning 
> and importance when you keep talking and thinking about it? The 
> rationalization of a feeling is, sometimes a very bad outcome for the 
> feeling. Many personalities of the Arts and Science have noted this 
> observation.
> How can you measure something without realizing its existence? And, beyond 
> this, good will is not enough to make you totally objective. The human nature 
> is highly subjective.  
>  There are transparent mental functions that either remain transparent, or 
> they lose their meaning (and their transparency) and they are no longer 
> there to be studied. It 's the same thing like trying to discover how many 
> rings of the telephone it takes to wake you up.  You 'll certainly miss 
> some of them until you become aware and start counting...Don't answer me 
> that you can place someone else to count the rings instead of you; I'm 
> talking about human properties that are working in a unique way in each 
> individual and they can only measured with the active support of the 
> same individual. 
>   The whole thing it's an application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, 
> (though in a higher level than materialistic physics): An amount of 
> energy is required to get things started, to make the system operative. 
> It's lost, and nothing can be done to regain it.
>   I could mention more examples but a mailing list is not the right place 
> to talk at length. 
>   Simply, I 'd like to make clear that I 'm not a pessimist,or some kind 
> of theological funtamentalist, and I hate all the conservative enemies 
> of scientific innovations and progress. Everything written here is 
> written in good faith, just the way I feel it. 
>          Thank you, 
>                                             Nick Maratheftis,
>                                                Medical student,
>                                                 U of Thessaloniki,
>                                                    Greece. 

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