In “The Yogurt Made Me Do It” (Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2011), Jonah Lehrer advises “There’s nothing metaphorical about ‘gut feelings’—bacteria influence our minds.” Of course they do. So do the weather, irritating ads, and the animal cunning of the telephone company. If they had no effect on our minds, our minds could not connect us to and interpret the world around us. So how does Lehrer get from that to
This research shows that the immateriality of mind is a deep illusion. Although we feel like a disembodied soul, many feelings and choices are actually shaped by the microbes in our gut and the palpitations of our heart. Nietzsche was right: “There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.”
Nietzsche was wrong, and the Nazis who adored him – and worshipped gut feelings – demonstrate that fact. Leher admits,
This doesn’t mean, of course, that the mind-body problem has been solved. Though scientists have ransacked our matter and searched everywhere inside the skull, they still have no idea why we feel like a ghost. But it’s now abundantly clear that the mind is not separate from the body, hidden away in some ethereal province of thought. Rather, we emerge from the very same stuff that digests our lunch.
A materialist origin for the mind does not follow from the fact that probiotics are good for our brains. And the mind-body problem is not even approached by these studies.
The fact that intelligent people can be so sure that materialist precepts are true – on so little evidence – is bound to be significant, and not for good.
See also: The Spiritual Brain.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose
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