Consciousness: a neurosurgeon's observations (General)

by David Turell @, Friday, June 30, 2017, 00:02 (168 days ago) @ David Turell

Egnor has been quoted before. As a neurosurgeon he has seen awake patients react while under brain surgery. Consciousness works seamlessly as parts of the brain are removed:

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/a-map-of-the-soul

"Francis Crick, neuroscientist and co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA, expressed the widespread view that the mind is a function of material stuff: “A person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influenced them.” How, then, is it possible to converse with someone while removing the large portions of her brain that serve thought and reasoning?

***

"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.

***

"Aquinas began by reaching back to an earlier thinker. Following Aristotle, he posited that the human soul has three kinds of powers. It has vegetative powers, which serve physiological functions such as heartbeat, respiration, and metabolism. It has sensitive powers, such as sensation, perception, memory, sensitive appetite, and locomotion. The vegetative and sensitive powers are caused by matter, in a purely physical way.

"But the human soul also has intellect and will, powers of a wholly different kind. With our intellect, we can think of universal concepts, such as mercy and justice and abstract mathematics. With our will, we can act on abstract principles. Because thinking of abstract concepts entails thoughts removed from particular things, Aquinas reasoned, intellect couldn’t be a material thing. Intellect and will are immaterial powers.

"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.

"Wilder Penfield, an early-twentieth-century neurosurgeon who pioneered seizure surgery, noted that during brain stimulation on awake patients, he was never able to stimulate the mind itself—the sense of “I”—but only fragmented sensations and perceptions and movements and memories. Our core identity cannot be evoked or altered by physical stimulation of the brain.

"Relatedly, Penfield observed that spontaneous electrical discharges in the brain cause involuntary sensations and movements and even emotions, but never abstract reasoning or calculation. There are no “calculus” seizures or “moral” seizures, in which patients involuntarily take second derivatives or ponder mercy.

"Similar observations emerge from Roger Sperry’s famous studies of patients who had undergone surgery to disconnect the hemispheres of the brain. This was done to prevent seizures. The post-operative patients experienced peculiar perceptual and behavioral changes, but they retained unity of personal identity—a unified intellect and will. The changes Sperry discovered in his research (for which he won a Nobel Prize) were so subtle as to pass unnoticed in everyday life.

***

"The woman on the operating table who was talking to me while I removed her frontal lobe had both material and immaterial powers of mind. 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. ((my bold)

"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."

Comment: Key point, when we stimulate the brain we only get sensory or motor events, never immaterial thought. Why? Because the brain is an active receiver and user of an immaterial consciousness which exists in the universe and is received by each newborn human.


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