Introducing the brain: half a brain is just fine (Introduction)

by dhw, Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 12:30 (204 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Your past discussion has noted specifically areas enlarged in London cabbies and Italian illiterate women who learn to read. All true, but your interpretation is entirely wrong. What type of brain use caused the enlargement? That is the key. Were there new concepts developed which involves planning and design. Of course not. Their brains were learning from known information and the process was memorization of streets and for reading a complex of learning printed words and learning the meaning of some words not known before reading.
And later: Your theory is totally debunked above if you are using the cabbies, etc.

dhw: Firstly, your attempt to “debunk” my theory does not tell us what other “knowledge“ you were referring to. Please identify it. Secondly, learning to read is not a matter of learning words but of learning a process (implementing a concept) that was new to the women themselves, and it proves that the brain responds to the demands made on it.

DAVID: Learning a concept of reading is not the same as originally creating a concept of reading, which is the difference in our thoughts about our argument about how the brain enlarges.

Of course it’s not the same, but that is not the difference between us! Our starting point is that nobody knows how or why the brain expanded. Your theory is that God preprogrammed or dabbled each expansion, and only then were our ancestors able to come up with new concepts. (We’ll ignore the dualism versus materialism debate.) I propose that it was the act of implementing new concepts that CAUSED the expansion. That is the difference between us, and my point is that the ONLY definite knowledge we have is of the modern brain, in which new activities complexify or enlarge part of the brain: e.g. the illiterate women’s brains do not change in advance of their learning to read (something new for them) but because of it. From this known fact I have extrapolated the theory that the same process would have caused earlier expansions. You don’t believe that the smaller brain can come up with new concepts, but you admit that we don’t know whether Einstein’s new concepts arose from an existing thicker brain area, or his thinking was the cause of the thickening. I opt for the latter, on the grounds that we know for a fact that activity changes the brain. (This would be true regardless of materialism versus dualism.) The problem is exactly the same: was the inventor of the new concept – say, the spear – born with the bigger brain, or was the bigger brain developed by his/her thinking (designing and implementing). Answer: we don’t know. Once again: The only concrete evidence we have is that new activities change the modern brain through complexification and/or localized enlargement. We have no evidence that the expansion preceded the concept that led to its design and implementation (although of course new concepts would have continued to arise once the new brain was in place - until once more expansion became necessary.)

dhw: Your post is merely distinguishing between different categories of new concept.

DAVID: Your categories are blatantly wrong. Creating a new concept is NOT the same as learning an existing concept. You can't twist out if it. Creating a new concept involves much new analysis and finally a design.

Agreed (apart from “blatantly wrong”!). In my theory, new analysis and design (invention) and theorizing (Einstein) are activities that cause changes to the brain, just as learning to implement the existing concept of reading, or acquiring additional knowledge (taxi-drivers) or skills (musicians) change the brain. But only the last three examples have been proven to be true, and it is from these that I have extrapolated my theory. You wrote: “Please use all our knowledge. Don't just pick out part of what we know to further your argument.” Now please tell us what further knowledge you have to support your own theory and to “debunk” mine.

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