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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Wed Feb 17 11:23:18 EST 1999

Michael Edelman wrote in message <36C9C1FB.467DF4A3 at mich.com>...
>Ray Scanlon wrote:
>> We know a great deal, a very great deal about the brain. Why not talk
>> what we know?
>Because it takes us away from the only interesting question- i.e., what is
>and how does it arise out of a physical decice like the brain?

The nature of the soul (mind) is a theological question and of the greatest
interest. But if is only a distraction if our interest is in a materialistic
explanation of how the brain works. It is my thesis that the brain may be
simply explained if we keep the beauty of our thoughts out of it.

>> Look at the reticular nucleus of the thalamus that is in
>> position to halt the inflow of signal energy through the medial and
>> geniculate bodies and through the basal ventral complex of the thalamus.
>> can also halt motor programs at the ventral lateral-ventral anterior
>> on their way to the motor and premotor cortex. Here is a mechanism for
>> interpolating extra synaptic events between incoming signal energy and
>> outgoing motor programs.
>The problem with this strictly physiological approach is that it ends up
>defining a perception mechanism, a memory storage, peripheral control,
etc., and
>you end up with a robot with a little homunculus sitting somewhere watching
>perceptions and operating controls. Where's mind? You've got a computer
>there humming away and no program.

To the contrary, that is exactly what you do not end up with. The nervous
system has sensory neurons, interneurons, and motor neurons. Signal energy
enters through sensory neurons, filters through interneurons, and exits
through motor neurons. No computation ensues. There is certainly no

The soul (mind) is extraneous to a materialistic explanation. It is only
when we turn to religion that we find need of a soul (mind).

>Using computers as a model for the brain isn't really productive unless you
>a real theory of AI to explain it. Otherwise you may as well build your
>from hydraulics for all it'll reveal about mind.

I do not think of the computer as a model for the brain. I think of the
brain as a network of leaky integrators.

>> Is this part of what we are subjectively aware of
>> as thinking?

>Big question: WHO is aware? When you say we're aware of some neurons or
>activation or whatever, you're simply moving mind back another level.Unless
>talk about mind, you're not going to answer any interesting questions.

When we speak of the subjective, we leave science of the material world and
enter theology.
It is the soul (mind) that is aware. I maintain that the relationship
between the brain and the soul (mind) is past our understanding. We lack the
needed mental equipment.

A materialistic explanation of the brain is interesting enough for me. I am
particularly interested in how the mammalian brain interpolates synaptic
events between sensory input and motor output by means of the reticular
nucleus of the thalamus.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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