sean

Brainless boy

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I understand the story of this kid broke a great number of years ago but have not heard much more since then or even if this story was true or not. Might be old news but I'm new to the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand and was curious to get an Objectivist's take on it. Found this posted on another forum...

"There's a young student at this university," neurologist

Professor John Lorber of Sheffield University told Science magazine in December 1980, "who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honours degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.

A scan revealed that the student had only 1mm of brain tissue lining the inside of his skull - fluid filled the area where the rest of his brain should have been. His was an extreme case of hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain", whereby cerebrospinal fluid fills the brain instead of circulating around it. Most sufferers can lead normal lives if regularly treated.

But if he had no brain, where was his mind? Similar questions are raised by cases of "transplant memories". In 1988, Claire Sylvia received a heart and double-lung transplant. After the operation, she underwent some apparent personality changes: she began to have unusual (for her) cravings for beer, green peppers and chicken nuggets; she dreamed about beautiful women and experienced homosexual urges. She also dreamed of meetings with a young man called Tim.

Alarmed, Sylvia sought out her donor's family and discovered that her new organs had belonged to an 18-year-old boy, called Tim. Tim had a penchant for the same foods she was craving - he was eating chicken nuggets when he died - and Sylvia felt he was the boy in her dreams.

In the 19th century, German anatomist Leopold Auerbach observed a complex network of nerve cells in the human digestive tract. This nerve bundle, a "second brain" containing more nerve cells than the spinal cord, was recently rediscovered by Michael Gershon at Columbia University. Professor Wolfgang Prinz in Munich has also studied this, and thinks it could govern some of our emotional and physical responses to thoughts and events - hence, perhaps, "gut feelings".

Georgetown University's Dr Candace Pert has suggested that neuropeptides are linked to our sense of self. These chemicals, found in all our major organs and muscles, enable communication between the mind and body. Pert's theory is that they also carry our emotions and our memories. Is consciousness diffused throughout the body with them?"

Also found this....

http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/science/...y_necessary.htm

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I understand the story of this kid broke a great number of years ago but have not heard much more since then or even if this story was true or not. Might be old news but I'm new to the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand and was curious to get an Objectivist's take on it. Found this posted on another forum...

"There's a young student at this university," neurologist

Professor John Lorber of Sheffield University told Science magazine in December 1980, "who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honours degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.

---------

I think this is referring to Al Gore.

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Whatever consciousness is, it is the property of an organism's physical body. How that happens is a scientific rather than a philosophical question. To answer it requires investigating the things involved and seeing what they are. The only thing philosophy has to say about it is that things must act in accordance with their natures and contradictions cannot exist.

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Whatever consciousness is ...

That is the question, is it not?

I remember Ayn Rand's embarrassing condemnation of the "planaria memory" experiments. In the 1950s and 1960s (maybe earlier) it was an experiment -- high school science fairs, in fact -- to teach a flatworm to run a maze, then feed it to other flatworms who supposedly ran the maze better (faster, higher, farther). Ayn Rand condemned the results on philosophical grounds, the immorality of cannibalism.

Now, the planaria experiments had problems, but they were not moral issues -- or at least not those specific moral issues.

Similarly, I have a tape of a David Kelley lecture -- and this is a gut feeling -- but someone asks about experiments involving apes (Washoe, Koko, others at Yerkes) who display the ability to use language. I can hear on the tape the restless rustling of the audience. They can't deal with it. Then someone else speaks up and says that they read an article by a famous Objectivist demolishing the study, and you can hear the wave as people settle down again. (Whew! close call... almost had a scientific fact that contradicted what we want to believe...)

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Whatever consciousness is ...

That is the question, is it not?

I remember Ayn Rand's embarrassing condemnation of the "planaria memory" experiments. In the 1950s and 1960s (maybe earlier) it was an experiment -- high school science fairs, in fact -- to teach a flatworm to run a maze, then feed it to other flatworms who supposedly ran the maze better (faster, higher, farther). Ayn Rand condemned the results on philosophical grounds, the immorality of cannibalism.

Got a citation for that?

Now, the planaria experiments had problems, but they were not moral issues -- or at least not those specific moral issues.

Similarly, I have a tape of a David Kelley lecture -- and this is a gut feeling -- but someone asks about experiments involving apes (Washoe, Koko, others at Yerkes) who display the ability to use language. I can hear on the tape the restless rustling of the audience. They can't deal with it. Then someone else speaks up and says that they read an article by a famous Objectivist demolishing the study, and you can hear the wave as people settle down again. (Whew! close call... almost had a scientific fact that contradicted what we want to believe...)

Knowledge of reality cannot contradict what we already know unless there is an error involved. And if you're going to do an ad hominem attack like that, you should provide more evidence besides "a gut feeling."

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(Whew! close call... almost had a scientific fact that contradicted what we want to believe...)

I cannot help my curiosity: What is the truth about the nature of consciousness that you think "we" do not want believe?

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Got a citation for that?

... And if you're going to do an ad hominem attack like that, you should provide more evidence besides "a gut feeling."

No citation. I remember it from the Objectivist Newsletter, or perhaps a verbal reply at a Basic Principles Q&A.

It was not an ad hominem attack. I did not attempt to invalidate a theorem of Objectivism on the grounds that many who call themselves Objectivists are true believers rather than critical thinkers. To say that a person is a Christian or drinks frangellica coffee is not an ad hominem attack, even if the claims are false.

The "gut feeling" phrase was a play off the original post, that perhaps the complex ganglia in our abdomens explain the commonly understood phrase "gut feeling" as a source of knowledge. I listened to a live tape. If you are familiar with theater or lecture hall audiences, then you have the context. My perceptions were as stated. Some in the crowd were uneasy. Then, the crowd relaxed.

In both cases, take my statements or reject them. The choice is yours.

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I cannot help my curiosity: What is the truth about the nature of consciousness that you think "we" do not want believe?

The question at hand in the lecture on tape was whether and to what extent other animals exhibit conceptual ability, as, for instance, apes that have been taught ot use Amislan or other communication media.

Consciousness is an attribute of animals. How "high" on the Great Chain of Being that is, I do not know. Are komono lizards as smart as rats? The octopus has the largest brain of any invertebrate and they can live a long time. Do they make good pets? I don't know. But I do live with cats and it can be a hassle figuring out what they want or getting them to do what I want.

SELF consciousness is a different attribute entirely. Some animals -- apes, of course, but also elephants and dolphins -- recognize themselves in a mirror. Most do not. However, even human babies need about 18 months of development to recognize themselves in a mirror. That brings up another question, the invalidity of contrasting adults of one species with neonates of another, the basic point stands: some animals exhibit self-consciousness.

Moreover, some people do not.

When you read of a "senseless" murder, conside that the perpetrator may, in truth, have no self-awareness, and perhaps even no "mind" as you understand yourself from the inside. Not all featherless bipeds are rational animals. According to the theories of Julian Jaynes, the invention of writing was an important impetus for hte formation of "self" within people. In a time not long ago (thousands of years only), our brains were more symmetrical than they are now, more like the brains of other higher mammals. Look at the simplest tools -- knive, hammer, saw, even scissors. They can be used with either hand. Early writing went any way -- right to left, up to down. But, as we standardized on handedness, we forced our brains to be asymmetrical with the corpus collusum mediating. People with underdeveloped corpus collusi may not head "voices" in their heads or they may not know where the "voices" come from. Thus, they claim that a devil or an angel told them to perform some action. Joan of Arc saved her nation.

Ever drive home from work and not remembe the trrip? Your mind was somewhere else while your brain carried out a very difficult coordinating sequence for a long time. It may be that for many people, even today, their whole lives are like that. We wonder why so many (hopefully "other") people buy useless consumer goods, eat tons of junk food and watch televison, go to sporting events, etc., etc. According to Jaynes, Gilgamesh built the city by telling people what to do ... over and over and over... step by step, repeatedly... I add that we still have this in work songs, sea chanties, and so on. If they did not sing "Ho-yo Heave Ho!" the Volga boatmen would forget to pull.

If this makes sense to you, you will follow up on your own. If it makes no sense to you, nothing I can add will change your whatchamacallit.

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