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At Mind Matters News: Why some life forms are smarter than others is still a mystery

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Brains are not simple so many “just common sense” theories have fallen by the wayside. Michael Denton takes up the question in The Miracle of Man (2022):

Neuroscience researcher Michel Hofman, who describes the human brain as “one of the most complex and efficient structures in the animated universe,” Denton, noting that a cubic millimetre of human brain features sixty times as many synaptic connections as a 747 jetliner has components, goes on to say: “Many authors have concluded that it may be very nearly the most intelligent/ advanced biological brain possible. That is, its information-processing capacity may be close to the maximum of any brain built on biological principles, made of neurons, axons, synapses, dendrites, etc., and nourished by glial cells and provided with oxygen via circulation. For example, Peter Cochrane and his colleagues, in a widely cited paper, conclude “that the brain of Homo sapiens is within 10– 20% of its absolute maximum before we suffer anatomical and/ or mental deficiencies and disabilities. We can also conclude that the gains from any future drug enhancements and/ or genetic modification will be minimal.” Hofman concurs: “We are beginning to understand the geometric, biophysical, and energy constraints that have governed the evolution of these neuronal networks. In this review, some of the design principles and operational modes will be explored that underlie the information processing capacity of the cerebral cortex in primates, and it will be argued that with the evolution of the human brain we have nearly reached the limits of biological intelligence.” (p. 193)” If Hofman, Cochrane and colleagues, and Denton are right, recent proposals to increase human intelligence “within a decade” via genetic engineering are doomed.

News, “Why some life forms are smarter than others is still a mystery” at Mind Matters News (July 14, 2022)

Takehome: Genetic engineering probably wouldn’t make humans smarter because, as biochemist Michael Denton notes in Miracle of Man, our brains seem to be optimally organized now. That would seem to support a design hypothesis.

You may also wish to read: Ever wish you had total recall? Ask people who do… Recall of every detail of one’s past works out better for some people than for others. Just why some people can recall almost everything that happened to them is a mystery in neuroscience, in part because they are few in number.

One Reply to “At Mind Matters News: Why some life forms are smarter than others is still a mystery

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to: “(the brain’s) information-processing capacity may be close to the maximum of any brain built on biological principles, made of neurons, axons, synapses, dendrites, etc., and nourished by glial cells and provided with oxygen via circulation.,,,”

    Shoot, in terms of ‘information-processing capacity’, the brain also greatly exceeds any supercomputer that man has ever built,

    Human brain has more switches than all computers on Earth – November 2010
    Excerpt: They found that the brain’s complexity is beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief, says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of the paper describing the study: …One (neuronal) synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor–with both memory-storage and information-processing elements–than a mere on/off switch. In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.
    – per cnet

    Data from the Salk Institute shows brain’s memory capacity is in the petabyte range, as much as entire Web – January 20, 2016
    Excerpt: “This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” says Terry Sejnowski, Salk professor and co-senior author of the paper, which was published in eLife. “We discovered the key to unlocking the design principle for how hippocampal neurons function with low energy but high computation power. Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.”
    http://www.salk.edu/news-relea.....y-thought/

    Brain is 10 times more active than previously measured, UCLA researchers find – Dan Gordon | March 9, 2017
    Excerpt:,, UCLA team discovered that dendrites are not just passive conduits. Their research showed that dendrites are electrically active in animals that are moving around freely, generating nearly 10 times more spikes than somas. The finding challenges the long-held belief that spikes in the soma are the primary way in which perception, learning and memory formation occur.,,,
    ,,, somas generated only all-or-nothing spikes, much like digital computers do.,,,
    “We found that dendrites are hybrids that do both analog and digital computations, which are therefore fundamentally different from purely digital computers, but somewhat similar to quantum computers that are analog,” said Mehta,,,
    “A fundamental belief in neuroscience has been that neurons are digital devices,,,
    ,,,This is a major departure from what neuroscientists have believed for about 60 years.”
    Because the dendrites are nearly 100 times larger in volume than the neuronal centers, Mehta said, the large number of dendritic spikes taking place could mean that the brain has more than 100 times the computational capacity than was previously thought.
    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/relea.....ommunicate

    From the preceding findings, one would ‘naturally’ presuppose that if you had a bigger brain then you would be more intelligent.

    But that is not what we find. Intelligence does not have a direct correlation to brain size.

    Scientists Find That Bigger Brains Aren’t Necessarily Smarter – 2015
    Excerpt: in the new review, the researchers looked at both unpublished and published studies, and found that the link between brain volume and higher IQ had been overestimated and exaggerated in the literature.
    This is because of publication bias, which means that journals are more willing to publish papers that find a strong link between something rather than those that find a small one, or are inconclusive.,,
    ,,, brain size didn’t have much predictive value when it came to measuring intelligence.
    Their conclusion is supported by the fact that men consistently have higher brain volumes than women, but that there’s no significant difference between the sexes when it comes to IQ tests.
    https://www.sciencealert.com/study-confirms-that-bigger-brains-aren-t-necessarily-smarter

    In fact besides intelligence not directly correlating to brain size, and in a finding that should give Darwinian materialists sleepless nights, “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved.,,, Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”

    Why Would You Remove Half a Brain? The Outcome of 58 Children AfterHemispherectomy—The Johns Hopkins Experience: 1968 to 1996
    Excerpt page 167: Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. The improvements are the result of the lessening of the impairments in function from the seizures, and from the decrease or, in most cases, elimination of the anticonvulsants. Intellect was worsened in the one child who has remained in a coma vigil-like state attributable to perioperative complications. Although there have been major concerns about loss of language after left hemispherectomy, all eleven of these children have regained virtually normal language.
    https://www.academia.edu/47374408/Why_Would_You_Remove_Half_a_Brain_The_Outcome_of_58_Children_After_Hemispherectomy_The_Johns_Hopkins_Experience_1968_to_1996

    In fact, “Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,”

    Strange but True: When Half a Brain Is Better than a Whole One – May 2007
    Excerpt: Most Hopkins hemispherectomy patients are five to 10 years old. Neurosurgeons have performed the operation on children as young as three months old. Astonishingly, memory and personality develop normally. ,,,
    Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,” Freeman says.
    Of course, the operation has its downside: “You can walk, run—some dance or skip—but you lose use of the hand opposite of the hemisphere that was removed. You have little function in that arm and vision on that side is lost,” Freeman says. Remarkably, few other impacts are seen. ,,,
    http://www.scientificamerican......etter-than

    Here are a few more examples that defy materialistic expectations,

    Discrepancy Between Cerebral Structure and Cognitive Functioning: A Review – 2017
    Excerpt: The aforementioned student of mathematics had a global IQ of 130 and a verbal IQ of 140 at the age of 25 (Lorber, 1983), but had “virtually no brain” (Lewin 1980, p. 1232).,,,
    This student belonged to the group of patients that Lorber classified as having “extreme hydrocephalus,” meaning that more than 90% of their cranium appeared to be filled with cerebrospinal fluid (Lorber, 1983).,,,
    Apart from the above-mentioned student of mathematics, he described a woman with an extreme degree of hydrocephalus showing “virtually no cerebral mantle” who had an IQ of 118, a girl aged 5 who had an IQ of 123 despite extreme hydrocephalus, a 7-year-old boy with gross hydrocephalus and an IQ of 128, another young adult with gross hydrocephalus and a verbal IQ of 144, and a nurse and an English teacher who both led normal lives despite gross hydrocephalus.,,,
    Another interesting case is that of a 44-year-old woman with very gross hydrocephalus described by Masdeu (2008) and Masdeu et al. (2009). She had a global IQ of 98, worked as an administrator for a government agency, and spoke seven languages.,,,
    ,,, , people who grew up with only one hemisphere developed all the neuronal foundations
    needed for ordinary cognitive and most motor skills. Even so, it seems additionally surprising that one hemisphere can accomplish this after the other has been removed or was isolated anatomically and functionally from the rest of the brain, as it is the case of surgical hemispherectomy.,,,
    It is astonishing that many patients can lead an ordinary life after this drastic procedure, having only minor motor disabilities that result from mild hemiplegia.,,,
    McFie (1961) was astonished that “not only does it (one hemisphere) perform motor and sensory functions for both sides of the body, it performs the associative and intellectual functions normally allocated to two hemispheres” (p. 248).,,,
    ,,, most patients, even adults, do not seem to lose their long-term memory such as episodic
    (autobiographic) memories.,,,
    https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/wp-content/uploads/sites/360/2017/12/Discrepancy-between-cerebral-structure-and-cognitive-functioning-JNMD.pdf

    Obviously, having high mental capacities, despite missing half, or more, of your brain, is simply inexplicable for those who are wedded to the belief that the mind is reducible to the material brain.

    Yet this ‘anomaly’ is a persistent pattern that is found in neuroscience. As Dr. Michael Egnor notes, “what we find, (in neuroscience), doesn’t fit the prevailing view that the brain runs the mind as computer hardware runs software.,,, We can do better science—and medicine—when we recognize that human beings have abilities that transcend reductionist material explanations.”

    A MAP OF THE SOUL by Michael Egnor – June 29 2017
    Excerpt: I’m a neuroscientist and professor of neurosurgery. The mind-brain question haunts me. Neurosurgeons alter the brain on a daily basis, and what we find doesn’t fit the prevailing view that the brain runs the mind as computer hardware runs software.
    I have scores of patients who are missing large areas of their brains, yet who have quite good minds. I have a patient born with two-thirds of her brain absent. She’s a normal junior high kid who loves to play soccer. Another patient, missing a similar amount of brain tissue, is an accomplished musician with a master’s degree in English.
    How can this be? It wasn’t until I read Thomas Aquinas that I began to understand.,,,
    Aquinas taught that our soul’s immaterial powers are only facilitated by matter, not caused by it, and the correlation is loose. His insight presaged certain findings of modern neuroscience.,,,
    Our higher brain functions defy precise mapping onto brain tissue, because they are not generated by tissue, as our lower brain functions are.
    Materialism, the view that matter is all that exists, is the premise of much contemporary thinking about what a human being is. Yet evidence from the laboratory, operating room, and clinical experience points to a less fashionable conclusion: Human beings straddle the material and immaterial realms.
    We can do better science—and medicine—when we recognize that human beings have abilities that transcend reductionist material explanations. In this century of unprecedented advances in brain research, it’s remarkable that the deepest insights emerge from an ancient paradigm: Thomas Aquinas’s map of the soul.
    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/a-map-of-the-soul

    And as if the intellect remaining unchanged, or improved, despite the removal of half the brain was not bad enough for materialistic presuppositions, in Near Death Experiences it is reported that people routinely have “enhanced thought processes [that] takes place when the brain is not functioning well or sometimes not functioning at all,,”

    Near-Death Experiences: 30 Years of Research – 2014
    Excerpt: Improved Mental Functions With an Impaired Brain
    Bruce Greyson, M.D. and director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, said NDEs are reliable because the accounts by near-death experiencers (NDErs) of these events remain unchanged over time. He compared a group of NDErs’ accounts about their NDEs made 20 years apart and found that they remained closely identical over time.
    Greyson believes that NDEs are an indication that the mind is independent of the brain because impaired brain functions would be expected during the clinical situation that the NDErs underwent, but his research found no corresponding impairment of mental functions in NDErs.
    “In most cases, people’s mental functioning is better in the NDE than [it] is during our normal waking life,” Greyson said during an interview with The Epoch Times.
    “Their thinking is faster, is clearer, is more logical, they have more control over their chain of thought, their senses are more acute, their memories are more vivid.
    “If you ask somebody about their near-death experience that happened 15 years ago, they tell it as if it happened yesterday. If you ask them [about] other experiences from their life at the same time, they are very fuzzy memories, if they have any at all.
    “[…] When you think that these experiences, which are characterized by enhanced thought processes [that] takes place when the brain is not functioning well or sometimes not functioning at all since it is in cardiac arrest or deep anesthesia—times when brain science would tell us that you shouldn’t be able to think or perceive or form memories—it becomes quite clear that we can’t explain this thing on the basis of brain physiology.”
    Eben Alexander, M.D., a neurosurgeon who also spoke at the conference, had an NDE that’s a case in point. He contracted acute bacterial meningitis, which damages the neocortex, in 2008 and went into a coma, spending six days on a ventilator.
    The glucose level of his cerebrospinal fluid was 1 mg/dl (milligram per one-tenth of a liter), while normal levels are between 60 and 80 mg/dl. When the level drops to 20 mg/dl, the meningitis infection is considered severe. For days after the coma, Alexander struggled to speak and recall memories before the coma. No one with this kind of severe brain damage is expected to fully recover.
    However, during his NDE, Alexander had such vivid experiences involving multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, and smell, that he said he couldn’t describe how amazing it was.
    “My brain right now—I think it recovered pretty well—could not do anything close to what my brain was doing,” Alexander said. “How does a dying brain end up getting far, far more powerful and able to handle these tremendous loads of information instantaneously and put it altogether?”
    http://www.educatinghumanity.c.....e-nde.html

    Again, such findings are simply inexplicable for those who are wedded to the belief that the material brain generates the mind.

    Verse:

    Isaiah 50:4
    ,,, He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

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