[Neuroscience] Re: Need Help With Neuroscience-Related Article

Glen M. Sizemore via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by gmsizemore2 At yahoo.com)
Tue Jan 2 14:08:56 EST 2007

"beachnut" <hoochiegooch At hotmail.com> wrote in message 
news:1167756525.885585.244930 At h40g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...
> Hi, all.
> I need some help here.  My girlfriend sent me an article
> from 'The Economist' (link below), and it has created
> an awful fight between us!  If some of you have a few
> spare minutes, it's short, and I could use some feedback
> from scientists.  I have an Electrical Engineering
> degree and she has degrees in languages and education,
> so we're not experts in neuroscience.
> For those who read the article, my questions are:
> 1.  The subtitle is "Modern neuroscience, says Geoffrey
>    Carr, is groping towards the answer to the oldest
>    question of all: who am I?".
>    Are [most] neuroscientists really concerned with
>    "who am I" in their work?

This was merely hyperbole on the part of the writer. But one thing is clear, 
neuroscience must, ultimately, be interested in the relation between brain 
and behavior. Isn't this sort of like saying they are interested in "who am 

> 2. Later, the author states:
>   "If the essence of individuality can be changed by
>    a physical accident, it implies that the brain is
>    a mechanism which generates the self, rather than
>    merely an organ which houses it."
>    I say "duh"!!  Is neuroscience into dualism, where
>    there is assumed distinction between mind and body/brain?

See Bennett and Hacker's "The Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience," 
for one view. But I will say this: "modern" neuroscience is thoroughly 
dualistic - epistemological dulaism. ED (an appropriate abbreviation!) is a 
position in which ontological dulaism is rejected, but the explanation of 
behavior proceeds in a fashion largely indistinguishable from the old 
mentalism. The mind and its parts are simply replaced by the brain and its 
parts. Now, the brain is certainly real, and certainly intimately connected 
to behavior, but what is screwed up is the concptualizations and assumptions 
that characterize mainstream psychology and these have thoroughly corrupted 

> 3.  He goes on to write:
>    "Many people, most of whom would not regard themselves
>    as dualists, think of the brain as being like a computer,
>    and the mind as being like a piece of software that runs
>    on that computer. But this analogy, too, is flawed. You
>    do not have to do much damage to a computer to stop it
>    being able to run programs. Yet as the case of Gage and
>    numerous subsequent individuals has shown, the self can
>    plod on, albeit changed, after quite radical brain damage."
>    Who are these "many people"?  Most intelligent people
>    I know don't give any credence to this computer analogy.

The computer metaphor has played a large role. Hell, where do you think the 
notion that the brain "processes information" come from?

> 4.  This one really perplexed me:
>    "...whisper not the word soul"
>    Your take?
> Okay, finally ;-)  here's the link!
>   http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8407261
> I've seen the magazine itself and there are several short pieces
> after this to comprise the Survey.  But this intro by this Economist
> science editor (a psychologist by trade) was enough for me to go
> off on.
> Thanks to any that have the time to read and respond!!
> Tear me up if need be!  I just need to hear it from actual
> scientists.

You will not hear what I have said from most neuroscientists (I don't 
consider myself a neuroscientist, but I have dabbled). Indeed, one is likely 
to elicit rigteous indignation, obfuscation, and insults from 
neuro"scientists" when one expressses such a position. But keep in mind that 
Bennett IS a neuroscientist.


> beachnut

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