the liver and the brain

Lester Zick lesterDELzick at worldnet.att.net
Sat Sep 4 13:17:04 EST 2004

On 4 Sep 2004 03:31:22 -0700, rscanlon at nycap.rr.com (ray scanlon) in
comp.ai.philosophy wrote:

>Dan Michaels writes:
> > r norman writes:
>> > The question is:  how much of the improvement of performance after
>> > birth is due simply to the continued development and maturation of the
>> > nervous system, that is, to the further elaboration of the genetic
>> > program that was left incomplete at birth, and how much to actual
>> > learning and experience?  My guess is that for many truly altricial
>> > animals both aspects are important and it is a very difficult
>> > experimental question to sort out which component is more important.
>> > More likely, in many mammals (especially primates and humans) the
>> > genetic program is preconfigured to require learning as an integral
>> > component.
>Lord knows, I have said things in this debate that I wish I hadn't,
>but I will
>open my big mouth again. I sincerely apologize to anyone whose
>feelings were hurt.
>In my opinion, possibly we should ask ourselves whether we wish to
>assign causal powers to the soul. If we wish to differentiate between
>"further elaboration of the genetic program" and "actual learning",
>this may be the case.
>These are not idle words. Stephen Jay Gould, in his great battle with
>the creationists, would distinguish between the two magisteria, that
>of science and that of religion. There is no final answer, but we can
>always take temporary positions.

This seems somewhat at variance with your original question. If there
were no soul, there would be no problem and we would analyze the brain
as we do any other organ. And if that's what you want, there is no
impediment to doing so. Whether one approaches the problem from the
perspective of behaviorism or cognitive science, we can undoubtedly
reconcile and correlate brain function and behavior in neural terms.

If that were the issue, then we would be looking at medical neurology.
But there are a couple of problems outstanding. What kind of brain are
you interested in analyzing? If the human brain, there are ethical
barriers. And if not the human brain, what kind of relevance is there?

I suspect the real problem with respect to analysis of the human brain
is that we are up against the last organ where we could expect to find
causative significance for the soul. So whether or not we choose to
assign causative significance for the soul with respect to behavior,
we are nonetheless at a threshold with respect to any mechanical
explanation for those peculiarly human behavioral characteristics.

>I would say that if the subject is the scientific explanation of the
>brain, then we couldn't distinguish between "genetic program" and
>"learning". But this is only my temporary position. Outside the
>laboratory, I am a religionist. ("Lab" is a figure of speech. All I
>have is an electronics workbench in the basement.)
>Some say you can be pc in the lab, but I say not. I say the genetic
>program constructs a brain that is plastic, that has rules of synaptic
>modification designed to meet an unfriendly universe and adjust to it.
>Otherwise, the species should disappear.
>This is only my temporary position. 
>> BTW, I'm sure your answer is pretty much "the" answer. But actually
>> there might be 3 parts to look at - genetics, development [ie, as in
>> finetuning of the type Hubel+Wiesel studied in lid-sutured animals],
>> and learning [as in finally learning to distinquish a cat from a
>> lion]. My personal working-hypothetical model pretty much allocates
>> the latter learning parts to areas beyond the 30+ visual centers of
>> the cortex, which mainly function as visual pre-processors with more
>> or less specific functions in each. The outputs of these form the
>> basis of what is stored in later [association] areas. At least this
>> model is easy to conceptualize [and to potentially model], if not
>> wholy accurate biologically.
>I say this is basic. Is the distinction between lion and cat a
>question of molecular biology or is it not? You pays your money and
>you takes your choice.
>In my humble opinion, when Hubel and Wiesel first stumbled on the
>truth that the cortical cell they had probed responded to a line
>segment rather than a spot, a great divide in human thought occurred.
>(Actually, that first cell was a complex cell that responded to a
>moving line segment.) This was not shared by all. There is a letter in
>which Marr referred to H&W's "silly little spots of light". Marr
>wanted the cell to respond to a computation of the entire visual
>scene, or at least a good portion of the scene.
>I bridle at the word "stored". Synapses are altered, but nothing is

Regards - Lester

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