CHAPTER FOUR

Postulate Four


Mind or spirit exists independently of the physical brain.




Paraphrasing Descartes, I think, therefore I am a spirit.  My consciousness is the one phenomenon secular humanism cannot explain.19  Materialism can explain the evolution of my body and brain.  It can even explain much of my behavior––why unthinking matter-in-motion would act as if it had a conscious mind as well as an unconscious mind:  A "bicameral mind" has survival value.

Julian Jaynes of Princeton theorized in 1976 that man initially evolved to have a "bicameral mind," i.e., a compartmentalized mind with an "executive part" and a "follower part."  Jaynes then postulated that consciousness somehow evolved out of the breakdown of this bicameral mind.  He gave no credence to any mind apart from the physical matter-in-motion of the brain:  "Somewhere here in a mere three-and-a-half pound lump of pinkish-gray matter, the answer has to be."20

But the fact that something has survival value does not explain how it came into being, much less how it operates.  Assume arguendo that there would be survival value in man's teeth being made of industrial-strength diamonds rather than of calcium.  That feature's excellent survival value alone could never have caused homo sapiens to evolve to have diamond teeth.  Diamonds can be synthesized only in high-pressure blast furnaces, it must be remembered, and furnaces are singularly lacking in the embryonic environment.

It's a long leap from saying that some feature has survival value to explaining how that feature could ever hope to evolve from available materials and existing processes.  To say that man should behave as if he were conscious sheds little light on how consciousness operates or by what process consciousness "evolved" out of thin air.  Like diamond teeth in a living being, consciousness invites a better explanation of how it got there and how it operates.

Surely a mindless computer could be programmed to act as if it had feelings and an awareness of its own existence.  But that fact and the computer's ostensible behavior do nothing to explain my actual feelings and my very real awareness of my own existence.  I don't just act as if I feel; I feel, and I know I feel.  I have a spirit, and the fact that that may have survival value explains nothing of what my spirit is, where it came from, or how it operates.

Jaynes's thinking is typical of the school of philosophy known as materialism.  Materialism is but one of several schools of thought.  Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University explains:

Countermodels to materialism begin with the argument that as ordinary matter does not appear to have self-awareness, a machine like man should not have it unless it had an existence of its own.  This belief in a mind which is more than an epiphenomenon raises several difficult issues of its own.  For instance:  What is the seat of the mind in the body?  Does the mind outlast the body?  Does an overmind, a consciousness, pervade the universe of which the individual minds are the temporarily separated fragments?  Does the mind enter the body at conception or does it emerge out of the developed body later?  Can mind influence matter? and so on.  The suggestion that the mind exists as a subtle body inside the brain has often been made.  This represents man as a machine with the mind dwelling within him as a pilot.  In another view matter is perceived to be a mere figment of the mind, which makes it hard to explain the observed regularity and commonality of the physical world.  To conclude, then, several views exist with regard to the mind-body problem.  Some of these are:

1. Materialism:  Mind is a record of sensory impressions.  Consciousness is a by-product of certain complex neural events and it first emerged at some state in phylogeny.

2. Panpsychism:  Mind is associated with all matter as an inherent attribute.  It is reflected as sentience or consciousness in the higher animals.

3. Dualism:  Both mind and matter have independent existence and consciousness is a reflection of the mind on the body.  The material world is causally closed.

4. Monism:  The fundamental entity of the universe is consciousness.  It is not known how the physical universe springs from this entity.  Nevertheless, to understand the universe one needs to understand consciousness.21

The currently fashionable view may be described as "functionalist."  Mind is looked upon as software.  Among the leading functionalists are Douglas Hofstadter, Paul Davies and Karl Pribram.  Davies and Hofstadter see consciousness as the product of a "strange loop" between different levels of structure,22 while Pribram posits a holographic model for the mind and brain.23

Karl Pribram, a neurophysiologist at Stanford University, sees consciousness as a hologram. Pribram claims that memories are not stored in any specific location in the brain.  They appear to be distributed over the whole brain, much as any portion of a holographic image is distributed over the whole film.

True, there are certain special places in the brain that control certain specific functions - centers for specific places for speech, et cetera.  Talbot tells us that an early American psychologist, Karl Spencer Lashley (1890-1958), whom Talbot claims was a neurophysiologist, discovered back in the 1920s that damage to any one specific portion of the brain interfered with the functioning of the sense that that one part of the brain specifically controlled.  However, Lashley later learned that higher-level brain functions, including memories and the ability to remember, were not destroyed.

Lashley is the originator of the school of thought known as antilocalisationism.  In his research, Lashley would teach animals to perform tasks and then destroy a specific area in the animal's brain.  Lashley then noted the effects.  He found that all cortical areas can substitute for each other and that the reduction in learning is proportional to the amount of brain destroyed.  Lashley's name is also associated with phrenology, the semi-occult practice of "reading" bumps on one's scalp or skull much as a practitioner of palmistry "reads" lines on one's palms.

To further consider the holographic model, when a portion of photographic film containing a holographic image is destroyed, no portion of the hologram that that film produces is destroyed.  Instead, the entire image is simply weakened or made fainter.  Talbot tells us that many neurophysiologists now take the fact that memories are not destroyed when a part of the brain is damaged as proving that the functions of memory are not located in any specific place in the brain, "but are distributed over the brain as a whole in much the same way that the image of a hologram is enfolded in all of its parts."24

Sir John Eccles is a dualist who won a Nobel Prize in 1963 for his work on the synapse.  He believes mind or spirit is separate and distinct from the physical machine called the brain.  He believes man has an immortal soul.25

Mind is postulated to exist independently of the physical brain.  As we shall see in another context, the brain may be a mere "tuning mechanism" to receive the non-local mind, much as a radio receiver is a tuning mechanism to receive non-local signals.

I think, therefore I am.  My spirit exists.

Either I am the only spirit in this universe, or other spirits also exist.  If other spirits also exist, they abound.  Surely I cannot be the greatest of these.  My spirit, therefore, is testimony to the existence of a greater spirit than mine.  My awareness of my own existence is all the proof I need of the existence of higher powers.

___________________________________________________________________________

CHAPTER FOOTNOTES

19Deutsch even admits that "we do not know what consciousness is . . . ."  David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality (New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1997), p. 338.

20Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, Inc., 1976), p. 16.

21Subhash Kak, The Nature of Physical Reality, Vol. 17, American University Studies, Series V. Philosophy (New York: Peter Lang, 1986), pp. 10-11.

22Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1983). See also Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1979), pp. 708-710.

23Karl Pribram, Consciousness and the Brain (New York: Plenum, 1976); Karl Pribram, Languages of the Brain, ed. G. Globus et al. (New York: Plenum, 1971).

24Michael Talbot, Beyond the Quantum (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986), pp. 50-52.

25Sir John Eccles, ed., Mind and Brain (New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1985).





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