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Neuroscience: More “brain in a vat” talk

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In this Newsweek blog article, author Rita Carter informs us,

Oh, totally. I think we are our brains. When we change the brain, we change the person. The more you look at brains . . . it becomes unavoidable that essentially everything you are is determined by the way that organ is working. And people who, for example, have a serious accident where a bit of their brain is knocked out, there is no doubt that a bit of them goes with it. Of course, [on the other hand] it does allow one to change and to learn. And yet there is still a very instinctive sense that we are more than our brains—and I can kind of sympathize with that because it’s common to us all, but I do think that if you really look at neuroscience you are forced to admit that all we are is this particular pattern of electrical activity in an organ, really.

Uh, no. Even a materialist atheist will normally concede that we have bodies too.

Speaking for myself, essentially everything I am is not “determined by the way that organ is working.” I have a number of other organs to think of, and many of their malfunctions are not “this particular pattern of electrical activity in an organ.”

Indeed, there are times I wish I could be the brain in a vat this author describes, just to shut off the bodily feedback I can’t do anything about. But it has never happened and never will.

Also just up at The Mindful Hack, my blog on neuroscience and spirituality, which supports The Spiritual Brain:

Religion: Does religious literacy matter?

Religion: Putting God on trial once again

Identical twins: The differences explored

Learning and self-esteem

Mental health: Use of psychiatry as torture

Neurolaw: Simulated study stirs debate

Hi Denyse. Rita Carter might be interested in reading Professor Eric Olson's articles Was I ever a Fetus? and An Argument for Animalism. Olson is not a religious believer, as far as I can tell. However, he does a very effective job in tearing to shreds the view that my brain is the real "me." It is a pity that such an incoherent, poorly thought out philosophical view is gaining vogue these days. vjtorley

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