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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Tue Feb 23 09:56:43 EST 1999

Edwin Drood wrote in message <7au663$5e4$1 at nnrp1.dejanews.com>...
>I have been following this thread for some time with quite some interest.
>you could honor me with a reply..
>Ray Scalon Wrote:
>>It is implicit in materialism that brain activity is determined by the
>>of molecular interaction. Signal energy reverberating in your brain was
>>writing that note.
>You posit that the brain alone could compose and write that note.
>it would be reasonable to assume that you believe that cognition, (the
>“if..., then...” thinking) is done by the brain with no input from the
>mind/soul.  Yes?

No, it is not reasonable to assume.... My interest is in the nervous system
as it is seen objectively by the neuroscientist. I see no "if" neurons and
no "then" neurons. Cognition is the activity of the brain as seen
subjectively by the soul (mind). Many people believe that the objective and
subjective views of brain activity may be blended "scientifically". I do
not. I hold that the subjective view of brain activity belongs to religion.
This is in no way derogatory of religion. I merely believe that science and
religion are separate and must remain so. Science is the objective
examination of the material universe, religion is the subjective view of the
spiritual universe. I enter both but I keep them separate.

When speaking of the objective view of the nervous system, I believe that
the neurons functions without any input from soul (mind). This is usually
called epiphenomenalism, a good a name as any.

>If so you would agree that whatever it is that allows cognitive function is
>inherent within the brain’s material structure.  Yes?

No. Cognition involves awareness and judgement. Consciousness has two
aspects: One, objective, we call alertness; the other, subjective, we call

I am aware.
You are alert.
He exhibits intelligent behavior.

Cognition is subjective and belongs to religion. What we find in the brain
are interacting neurons. These neurons serve as a filter for signal energy
on its way from sensory neurons to motor neurons.

>Why then, is it assumed that whatever it is that allows self awareness is
>inherent within the brain’s material structure?

This is what I deplore, the desire, when speaking of brain action, to start
from the top rather than the bottom. Consider: when food is placed in the
mouth, mastication and swallowing follow. These physical activities are
driven by neurons in the brain stem. This is the brain in action.

As we move up to the next step, the search for food, we ask, "How did the
DNA wire the brain so that it will drive the organism to 'bring food to the
mouth'?" This process is essentially the same in fish and man. We add layers
of complication, that is all.

This complication of brain action leads finally in the mammal to the
interpolation of an indefinite number of synaptic events being interpolated
between sensory input and motor output. Subjectively we are aware of this as
"thinking". It is my thesis that it is the neurons of the reticular nucleus
of the thalamus are prominent in this interpolation.

This interpolation of synaptic events can be indefinitely prolonged by the
reticular nucleus until we are thinking of "self-awareness". We have reached
the stratosphere. I hold that the soul (mind) may only be aware of activated
neurons. Which constellations of neurons could make us aware of
"self-awareness"? We are lead to the chimera.

In any event we are moving toward religion. It would be far better to wait
until the brain is completely worked out before we speak of self-awareness.
Leave it for last.

>Why then, is it assumed that cognition does NOT lead to self awareness?
>Why is this line between thinking and self awareness drawn at all?

It is simply a matter of how we approach reality (material and spiritual).
If we are convinced, as I am, that man's brain does not have the needed
capability to resolve the dichotomy, we should relax. We should examine the
physical universe with science and the spiritual universe with religion.

Cognition is our subjective awareness of brain activity. If we view it
objectively it becomes a question of which neurons are active when our brain
thinks of self-awareness. This objectivity is not enough when we contemplate

As long as we talk about how the brain works, let us lay bricks in mortar
and forego self-awareness until the structure is up.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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