minds and brains

TONYJEFFS tonyjeffs at aol.com
Fri Dec 11 03:17:42 EST 1998

Hi Ray & all,
I agree with virtually everything you say.
The only exception is:  I believe that my unique awareness of my own existance,
is good evidence that I have a soul - a soul that may well be nothing more than
a passive observer. (statistically, it is imo infinitely improbable that I
would be uniquely and intimately  aware of the existance of  one "TonyJeffs". I
can't concieve of a rational explanation for this phenomenon)  
Irrespective of that, the physical nervous system does appear to be entirely
adequate for all human functions.   It follows  that all my decisions, thoughts
and actions are systematically formulated in accordance with the development of
my cephalated nervous system, and its response to its environment. This renders
the concept of 'free will' unnecessary.


In article <366f30c7.0 at ns2.wsg.net>, "Ray Scanlon" <rscanlon at wsg.net> writes:

>We aim for a rational explanation of how the brain works. It must be based
>first on the molecular biology of the neuron. Second, on the anatomy of the
>nervous system. Third, we ask that the explanation pay attention to those
>aspects of the nervous system that are reflected in the subjective view of
>the brain as experienced by the mind.
>As a starting point we take the position that the mind has no causal powers.
>The mind is completely extraneous to our explanation of brain activity. The
>brain would act just as well with no mind present, but an explanation of
>brain activity that ignores the mind will not satisfy many people. We wish
>to say, "When these neurons are active, we have decided". We have not
>decided, our brain has decided but we experience the active neurons and say
>that we did it.
>Our answer to the soul (mind)/body problem is that a material universe has
>no need of soul. We leave that to the philosophers, they may worry it to
>their heart's content. Our position for purposes of brain explanation is
>that there is soul (mind) but it has no part to play in a material account
>of brain action.
>We direct our attention to the nervous system and, in particular, the
>mammalian nervous system The brain is an artifact of anatomy, the nervous
>system is the basic reality of animal life. We exempt from consideration
>those primitive neural structures that lack interneurons. At the same time
>we insist that all those neural structures that include interneurons are
>members of the club, they differ only in complexity.
>Why such an explanation? Because it is a common complaint of
>neuralphysiologists that no such overall explanation exists to serve as a
>Since the very beginning, since 1955, AI has been bedeviled by the mind.
>Anyone who put forward a design for an intelligent machine was asked, "Can
>it think?" They said "think" but what they meant was, "Is there something
>inside that machine that is aware?" In place of "mind" put the word "soul"
>and we will have the raw question, does the machine have a soul? This
>belongs strictly to religion. This is what they mean, why don't they say so.
>They don't because they are afraid of appearing soft on religion.
>At the same time the philosophers are very self conscious about their lack
>of technical knowledge. They know nothing of neuroscience, they know nothing
>of computer engineering. But they are very confident (and rightly so) of
>their ability to spin word castles in the air. So we have Turing's Test, so
>we have Searle's Chinese Room.
>As Turing originally posed his test, it was simple engineering answer to the
>philosophers. If you can't tell the machine from a human through a teletype
>interface you might as well agree that it has a mind (soul). But Turing's
>Test can be described with words and the philosophers have had a field day
>with it. Big Blue passed the test in a very restricted universe. You can't
>tell Big Blue from a man at the chessboard.
>Searle said, "You can't put a soul in the machine using syntax." (His
>thought. my words) In another place he says, "A soul needs a carbon
>substrate, it rejects a silicon substrate." (Again, his thought, my words)
>Of course he didn't use the word "soul", he too is afraid of being accused
>of religion.
>We should leave soul (mind, self, intelligence, whatever) to the theologians
>and proceed with the design of a machine that can think and decide using
>only neuromimes. As a first step we examine the brain to see how the neurons
>do these things. If we can explain the how the brain thinks, how it decides,
>we shall know how to design the machine.

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