Intelligent Design Medicine Mind Neuroscience

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: The brain is not a “meat computer”

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At Mind Matters Today:

Early in my neurosurgical career, I was called to the emergency room to see a four-year-old boy who had had a stroke. He was playing on a sofa and fell on his head, twisting his neck. He told his mom that his head hurt—then lapsed into a coma.

The CT scan showed that he had torn his vertebral artery, which is a vital artery that traverses the bones of the neck and provides blood flow to critical parts of the brain (see the illustration at right below). His damaged brain was swelling dangerously; quite simply, he was dying.

We rushed him to the operating room, where I removed the permanently damaged part of his brain—most of his left cerebellar hemisphere—to take the pressure off of his brainstem so as to save his life. The cerebellum plays an important role in coordination so I had to tell his family that he would likely be handicapped, both from the stroke and the need to remove the damaged part of his brain. …

Well, you can read for yourself how that turned out. Dr. Egnor notes,

The [19th-century] phrenologists were quite wrong— high-level intellectual function localizes very little or not at all to specific brain regions—but phrenology hasn’t really died out, despite the collapse of its evidence base. Modern neuroscience is riddled with high-tech phrenology, based on materialist assumptions that the brain is a hard drive and the mind is the program that runs on it. The use of an analogy to computation to understand the brain and the mind is fraught with fallacies. More.

Also at Mind Matters Today: Boy loses large hunk of brain. And is “doing just fine.” When pundits talk glibly of creating artificial minds or claim that consciousness is an illusion, it might help to remember that few predicted cases like this could exist and few thought that high tech diagnostics would lead to their discovery. [This was a different, much more recent case. – ed.]

2 Replies to “Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: The brain is not a “meat computer”

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Money-shot clip:

    The materialist view that the brain as a computer made of meat and that the mind is the software run on this carnal machine is a profound misunderstanding of neurology and of the relationship between the mind and the brain. It is akin to the error of phrenology in the 19th century when materialist neuroscientists presumed that all regions of the brain were eloquent and that complex intellectual functions could be localized to specific gyri.

    The phrenologists were quite wrong— high-level intellectual function localizes very little or not at all to specific brain regions—but phrenology hasn’t really died out, despite the collapse of its evidence base. Modern neuroscience is riddled with high-tech phrenology, based on materialist assumptions that the brain is a hard drive and the mind is the program that runs on it. The use of an analogy to computation to understand the brain and the mind is fraught with fallacies.

    Thinking is not computation. In fact, thinking is the anthesis of computation. Thought always has meaning, and computation inherently lacks meaning . . . . The brain looks like a computer only if we analyze it as if it were a computer. Our analysis does not mean that it is a computer, and it does not mean that computation explains the mind or even that computational approaches to neuroscience provide genuinely meaningful insight into neurophysiology.

    KF

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    …few predicted cases like this could exist …

    The predictors and writers on neurology were remarkably slow to pick up on reality. These cases aren’t rare.

    30 years ago I knew two college students who were getting along just fine on half a brain. Both had subtle deficiencies that weren’t obvious.

    These two folks had been through a considerable amount of surgery when younger, so they should have been in the ‘database’ of medicine. But the ‘database’ didn’t work well then, and still doesn’t. I suspect HIPAA has made things even worse now.

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