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At Mind Matters News: 2. Neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist agree: Brain is not mind

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Michael Egnor tells Mark Solms: Neuroscience didn’t help him understand people; quite the reverse, he had to understand people, and minds, to make sense of neuroscience:

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stony brook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor now responds that his clinical experience supports that view and the view that the mind is not simply “what the brain does” as some popular neuroscientists claim:

News, “2. Neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist agree: Brain is not mind” at Mind Matters News


Michael Egnor: When I got to medical school, I was thrilled at being able to study neuroscience. My first day of medical school, I bought all the textbooks for neuroscience… I was fascinated by the basal ganglia. And I was thinking that when I really studied neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, that I would understand the mind on a deeper level, not just the structure of the brain and the physiology, but what the mind was and what a person was. [00:16:00]

I thought this was the Rosetta Stone into understanding deeply what it is to be human. And I found in medical school, and then in my neurosurgical training, that it didn’t really help that much. In fact, it was almost the other way around. I had to understand what people were and what the mind was in order to make sense of neuroscience! And I still find that. [00:16:30]

Basal ganglia/Lim S-J, Fiez JA and Holt LL (2014) How may the basal ganglia contribute to auditory categorization and speech perception? Front. Neurosci. 8:230. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2014.00230. CC 3.0

So, I came to a very different perspective. I saw very much the same things that Mark wrote about in his book. I saw patients who didn’t have frontal lobes, or at least most of their frontal lobes, who were completely conscious, in fact, rather pleasant, bright people. I’ve had children who have hydrocephaly, who are most certainly conscious. They’re quite handicapped, but they have emotions. They obviously have profound mental states. [00:17:00]

I have a patient who’s had most of his brain destroyed. He’s a young man who had an arteriovenous malformation of his brain (hemorrhage) about 30 years ago when he was a small child, and it destroyed most of his brain. I see him in the office, he has a shunt for hydrocephalus, for fluid on his brain. He can’t speak very well and he sits in a wheelchair. But he’s actually an extremely perceptive person. His family says that he understands other people’s emotions and thoughts better than most people do. I’ve got a young girl who’s missing at least half of her brain, including a lot of her frontal cortex, who just recently graduated from high school as an honor student. She’s a brilliant child, a perfectly normal kid. [00:17:30]

So, what Mark says is completely true. Consciousness certainly doesn’t come from the cortex. Where it comes from is a whole another fascinating question. But I found that what’s in the neuroscience textbooks simply doesn’t match up to real everyday experience.


Takehome: Egnor saw patients who didn’t have most of their frontal lobes who were completely conscious, “in fact, rather pleasant, bright people.”

Here’s the first portion of the debate, where neuropsychologist Mark Solms shares his perspective: Consciousness: Is it in the cerebral cortex — or the brain stem? In a recent discussion/debate with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, neuropsychologist Mark Solms offers an unconventional but evidence-based view, favouring the brain stem. The evidence shows, says Mark Solms, author of The Hidden Spring, that the brain stem, not the cerebral cortex is the source of consciousness.

You may also wish to read: Your mind vs. your brain:
Ten things to know

4 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: 2. Neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist agree: Brain is not mind

  1. 1
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    Mind.
    Brain.
    If two things cannot be separated, then they are not separate things.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Pater Kimbridge, here’s a little trip down memory lane for you as to the last time you tried to defend Solms’ theory,

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/at-mind-matters-news-neurosurgeon-michael-egnor-takes-on-philosopher-david-papineau-round-1/#comment-733730

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/at-mind-matters-news-neurosurgeon-michael-egnor-takes-on-philosopher-david-papineau-round-1/#comment-733742

    Also of interest, I found the following interview where Solms basically just hand-waves off the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ as being no big deal. and then he also disparaged God as “not really grappling with the problem.”

    Consciousness Is Just a Feeling
    With help from Freud, this neuropsychologist locates consciousness in choice.
    BY STEVE PAULSON
    MARCH 3, 2021
    Excerpt:
    Interviewer: The major point of contention is whether consciousness can be reduced to the laws of physics or biology. The philosopher David Chalmers has speculated that consciousness is a fundamental property of nature that’s not reducible to any laws of nature.

    Solms I accept that, except for the word “fundamental.” I argue that consciousness is a property of nature, but it’s not a fundamental property. It’s quite easy to argue that there was a big bang very long ago and long after that, there was an emergence of life. If Chalmers’ view is that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, it must have preceded even the emergence of life. I know there are people who believe that. But as a scientist, when you look at the weight of the evidence, it’s just so much less plausible that there was already some sort of elementary form of consciousness even at the moment of the Big Bang. That’s basically the same as the idea of God. It’s not really grappling with the problem.
    https://nautil.us/issue/98/mind/consciousness-is-just-a-feeling

    It might interest Solms to know that the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ is not a problem for Theists precisely because Theists hold the Mind of God to precede material reality, but that the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ is a ‘hard problem’ for materialists precisely because “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious.”

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness.”
    – Jerry Fodor – Rutgers University philosopher
    [2] Fodor, J. A., Can there be a science of mind? Times Literary Supplement. July 3, 1992, pp5-7.

    “Every day we recall the past, perceive the present and imagine the future. How do our brains accomplish these feats? It’s safe to say that nobody really knows.”
    Sebastian Seung – Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist – “Connectome”:

    “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.”
    Roger Wolcott Sperry – Nobel neurophysiologist
    As quoted in Genius Talk : Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995) by Denis Brian

    “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.”
    – Eugene Wigner – Nobel prize-winner – Quantum Symmetries

    “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”
    Nick Herbert – Contemporary physicist

    “I have a much easier time imagining how we would understand the big bang, even though we can’t do it yet, than I can imagine understanding consciousness.”
    – Edward Witten – professor of mathematical physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    – Larry Dossey – Physician and author

    In the article Solms presupposes the materialistic position that consciousness need not be primary in any definition of reality that he may put forth. He simply is ‘not even wrong’ in that materialistic presupposition that he is holding;

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    – Max Planck (1858–1947), one of the primary founders of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied—though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, “The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation.” In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that “life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws,” could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists.”
    – Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, pp 167-177.

  3. 3
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    Of course, one of the two things CAN be an ATTRIBUTE or PROPERTY of the other thing.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Solms’ belief that “the source of consciousness in the brain is,, the brain stem,” and that “the brain stem in you and me is the same as it is in fishes,,, It’s primitive core”

    The basic structure of the brain stem in you and me is the same as it is in fishes. If you’re going to look at it from the physical point of view, which part of the brain, is bound up with this mental property that we call consciousness? It is the reticular activating system, in particular, of the brain stem. It’s primitive core.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/at-mind-matters-news-the-brain-stem-not-the-prefrontal-cortex-may-be-the-seat-of-consciousness/

    Yet, “The idea that the brainstem is the most ancient structure is a common misconception, one even some scientists appear to buy into.”

    Mark Solms’ theory of consciousness – February 25, 2021
    Excerpt: It’s worth noting that whether or not consciousness requires a forebrain has little bearing on animal consciousness. The evidence from ontogeny, fossil records, and model organisms all show the forebrain-midbrain-hindbrain architecture arose very early in vertebrate evolution. Any vertebrate fish you commonly think of has a forebrain, including a pallium, the covering over the forebrain that’s the precursor to the mammalian cortex. The idea that the brainstem is the most ancient structure is a common misconception, one even some scientists appear to buy into.
    https://selfawarepatterns.com/2021/02/25/mark-solms-theory-of-consciousness/

    Moreover, Solm’s ‘ancient brain stem’ theory smells on awful lot like the now discredited triune brain, (i.e. “lizard brain”), theory that Darwinists erroneously held to be true for years.

    “This compelling tale of brain evolution arose in the mid 20th century, when the most powerful tool for inspecting brains was an ordinary microscope. Modern research in molecular genetics, however, has revealed that the triune brain idea is a myth. Brains don’t evolve in layers, and all mammal brains (and most likely, all vertebrate brains as well) are built from a single manufacturing plan using the same kinds of neurons.
    Nevertheless, the triune brain idea has tremendous staying power because it provides an appealing explanation of human nature. If bad behavior stems from our inner beasts, then we’re less responsible for some of our actions …”
    LISA FELDMAN BARRETT, “THAT IS NOT HOW YOUR BRAIN WORKS” AT MIND MATTERS NEWS (MARCH 3, 2021)

    As another researcher of the unconscious mind explains,

    “To be clear, you don’t have a lizard brain or a brain from any reptile for that matter. This was just a theory and unfortunately, it hasn’t lasted the test of time. Put simply, MacLean believed that brain evolution was an additive process i.e. new layers of brain tissue would grow and develop on top of old layers, leading to the existence of an “old brain” with a “new brain.” But the issue that neuroscientists have known for a significant time now is that our brains didn’t develop like this.”
    DAINA HAZEL, “THE SCIENCE BEHIND YOUR LIZARD BRAIN AND WHY YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT” AT MEDIUM (OCTOBER 16, 2020)
    https://mindmatters.ai/2021/03/no-you-do-not-have-a-lizard-brain-inside-your-human-brain/

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