Monday, April 2, 2018

Introduction to This Site

We have all been brain-brainwashed.

We have been brainwashed into believing unproven dogmas about the brain: the dogma that the human mind is produced entirely by the brain, and that all our memories are stored in our brains. Scientists have not proven such dogmas. But they constantly assert or assume such dogmas, so often that the average person is as unlikely to question them as the average person in a dictatorship is unlikely to question an assertion he constantly hears, that his dictator is a brilliant genius.

On this web site I will present a large number of powerful reasons for rejecting the claim that the brain is the source of the human mind. The case I will present is a massive one, consisting of a huge amount of evidence, and many compelling arguments.

There are actually many severe problems involved in explaining the most basic intellectual capabilities of humans through the theory that brains generate such capabilities. Scientists have not made any progress in giving a credible explanation as to how a brain could generate any such thing as an abstract idea. An idea is a mental thing. We have some idea of how mental things can produce other mental things (such as how one idea can lead to another idea). We also understand how physical things can produce other physical things. But no one really has any idea at all how a physical thing could possibly produce a mental thing. Intuitively the idea that a neuron or a set of neurons can generate a thought seems no more likely than the idea that blood might drip from a stone.

Romain Brette is a neuroscientist actively engaged in neuroscience research. He states in a post on his blog, "I have no idea why neural activity should produce any conscious experience at all." Neither does any other neuroscientist. 

Were it true that the human mind is merely the product of the brain, we would expect there to be a very high correlation between brain health and mind function. Consider a computer. If you open up the back and yank one little chip, you will probably disable it. If our thoughts are a kind of computation produced by a brain that acts like a computer, and our memories are stored physically like our computers store things physically, we would expect that any major damage to the brain would have catastrophic effects on the mind.

But there is no such high correlation between brain health and mental function. Astonishingly, there are many cases of people who had normal or almost-normal mental function even though very much or most of the brain was destroyed by disease. One of many cases this site will review is the case of a Frenchman who was employed as a civil servant even though 90% of his brain was destroyed by disease. There are numerous similar cases, such as cases of people who suffered little loss in memory even after half of their brains were removed. Such cases are incompatible with the dogma that the human mind is produced by the brain, and that our memories are stored in our brains.

Consider the dogma that all our memories are stored in our brains. When you recall something, your body does nothing to suggest that you are using your brain to retrieve the memory. If I retrieve an apple on my table, my body gives me two different signals that my hand is being used to retrieve the apple. The first is the sight of my hand grasping the apple, and the second is the feeling of the apple in my hand. But if I retrieve a memory of my childhood, my body does absolutely nothing to hint to me that my brain is being used to perform this retrieval. The memory could be stored locally in my soul, or non-locally in some mysterious external consciousness infrastructure unknown to us.

Even when we scan brains with medical devices such as MRI machines, when a person recalls something there is no convincing evidence that information is being loaded from a brain location. A typical MRI scan of someone retrieving a memory will show something like a 1% variation from region to region in the brain, something that tells us basically nothing.

We can imagine an experiment that might prove that memories are stored in brains. Some animal might be trained to learn some information. The animal's brain might then be dissected, and scientists might somehow attempt to retrieve information supposedly stored in the brain. If the scientists could retrieve very specific information that was unknown to them – such as an image that the animal had been fear-conditioned with – that might be proof that a memory was stored in a brain. No such experiment has ever been done.

Do scientists have at least a plausible theory to explain how a brain could store memories? No, they do not. Their shortfall in this regard is extremely great, but little known. The most popular theory of how the brain stores memories is that memories are stored in synapses. But this theory has a gigantic defect that makes it untenable. Synapses are made of proteins, and we know that the proteins that make up synapses have very short lifetimes, with an average lifetime of only a few weeks. But humans can reliably remember memories for more than 50 years. There is a huge discrepancy here. The medium which our scientists have speculated is a storage place for memories does not have even one per cent of the stability that would be required to store memories for 50 years.

This is one of only several major reasons why all attempts to explain the brain as a long-term memory storage place are doomed to failure. An equally powerful reason is that there is no plausible way to account for how a brain might allow a human to instantly recall memories learned long ago. Consider the case of someone who hears the name “John F. Kennedy” and who instantly recalls several relevant facts and images, such as the exact date of his death and how his face looked. How is someone able to recall such things instantly, if such information is stored on some tiny portion of the brain? The brain has no coordinate system and no indexing system by which the physical location of some tiny part of the part might be identified. So we can't imagine that the brain somehow knows how to look in some exact brain storage site such as neuron location #235,632,226. Nor can we imagine that the brain scans through all of millions of tiny sites it is storing information, to recall some particular data item. We remember things too quickly for such a thing to be going on.

Astonishingly, the near instantaneous recall of obscure data items learned long ago is a wonder we simply cannot plausibly explain through any theory of the storage of memory in brains. Scientists just kind of shrug their shoulders when faced with this difficulty, and kind of suggest, “We'll learn how that works one day.” But given the architecture of brains, completely lacking in indexing and a coordinate system, there is every reason to think scientists will never be able to explain instantaneous recall of obscure data items through any theory based on a brain storage of memories.

Explaining a brain storage of memories has still another difficulty as grave as the two just mentioned. This is the encoding problem. A memory (a mental thing) could not simply be kind of poured into some storage spot, as one might pour water into ice-cube trays. For the information in our minds to be physically stored in a brain, miracles of encoding would have to be constantly going on, with all kinds of intricate translation occurring. It would have to be something vastly more complicated and sophisticated than the multiple layers of encoding that occur when language is translated into binary bits stored on a computer. There would have to be a brilliant encoding scheme for storing language, another for storing images, another for storing feelings, another for storing smells, and so forth. The problem is that no one has any idea how encoding so sophisticated could occur, or how encoding schemes so complicated could possibly have arisen. Explaining how such encoding schemes came about would be a nightmare much worse than explaining how the genetic code appeared, a problem scientists still haven't solved.

So why does the typical person firmly believe that the brain is the source of his mind? Because he has been told this again and again by people who never proved or well-established the claim they were making. If we had been told again and again throughout our lives by authorities that the liver was the source of the human mind, we would believe that without doubting.

What other type of things might argue powerfully against the claim that the human mind is merely the product of the brain? One such thing would be if human minds had a capability that we could never explain as a result of brain activity. There is very strong evidence for such capabilities. One such type of evidence is the massive and extremely convincing evidence that has been gathered for extrasensory perception. Besides massive anecdotal evidence, we have many decades of very convincing laboratory evidence gathered by scientists such as Joseph Rhine working at Duke University. We also have extensive gathered by the US government for a psychic ability known as remote viewing.

Recognizing that such observations are fatal to claims that the human mind is purely the product of the brain, many scientists have simply declared all such evidence for human psychic abilities to be void and taboo. In this regard they are like people who want to believe Earth is the biggest planet, and who regard all photos of Saturn and Jupiter as frauds. You do not make a large body of convincing observations go away by just declaring it fake.

Besides evidence for human psychic abilities, there is another line of evidence that refutes claims that the human mind is merely the product of the brain. This line of evidence is near-death experiences. The dogma that the mind is just a product of the brain predicts that mental activity should cease whenever brain activity stops, as it does when a person's heart stops. But to the contrary, in near-death experiences we very frequently see people having vivid mental experiences after their hearts have stopped and their brain activity has stopped. Skeptics claim that such stories are fake or hallucinations. But the reality of near-death experiences is proven by many cases in which people were able to successfully describe the details of medical procedures occurring while their hearts were stopped. This site will review such cases.

All of the claims made here will be thoroughly explained, substantiated and documented on this site. By the time the reader is finished reading this site, he or she may realize that the claim that the human mind is a product of the brain is simply a speech custom of professors, neither something that is well-established, nor something that is consistent with observations. 

If minds do not come from brains, where do minds come from? At this stage in human ignorance, this question must remain unanswered. But here and there on this site I will speculate about possibilities, while acknowledging that we don't know the answer. One possibility many believe in is that each human has an individual soul locally associated with his body. Another possibility is that humans derive their minds in a top-down way from some type of cosmic mind source or cosmic consciousness infrastructure.  Nowadays scientists advance the subtle doctrine that all material particles derive their mass from some cosmic reality called the Higgs Field.  It may be that all conscious minds derive their consciousness from some cosmic consciousness field that can be roughly compared to the Higgs Field.  In one post on this site I will speculate how such a possibility can be visualized. 

We may use the term neuralism for the doctrine that minds come from brains. Although sometimes sold as science, neuralism is a philosophical position, not science. This site will be arguing for the opposite position, the simple position that minds do not come from brains. We may use the term nonneuralism for this position. Nonneuralism is a non-sectarian position in the philosophy of mind that may be held without contradiction by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, philosophical theists, agnostics or atheists, regardless of whether they do or not believe in Darwinism.  Not wishing to assume that the user has learned these terms "neuralism" and "nonneuralism," I will make very little use of them on this site, and will instead simply use clearer phrases such as "the idea that brains make minds" and "the idea that minds do not come from brains."  

I may note this is a "philosophy of mind" site, not a medical site. Nothing stated at this site should be construed as any type of medical advice. Regardless of whether it generates our minds, the brain is an important part of the body you should be careful to preserve from injury, by doing things such as wearing your seat belt and wearing a helmet while biking. If you have any medical issue, consult a board-certified physician for advice. 

2 comments:

  1. Looking forward to delving into your thoughts as you've provided them, here on this site. I have recently come to similar epiphanies about minds and emotions, and am very disappointed with research directions I've reviewed in neurobiology, neuropsychology, etc.

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  2. Thank you for this presentation of ideas and research. I'm enjoying reading through it all. I'd very much like to know more about you--your educational background and experience (both personal and professional) and whatever else may have brought you to this perspective and this blog.

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