13.4.06

are we a bunch of neurons?

>> Neuroscience is very interesting. For starters, don't you find it fascinating that the human brain is trying its best to understand how it works, and thereby attempting to explain what drives it to try its best to understand how it works?

> That kind of convoluted talk only makes my brain hurt. Plus I do not really believe that the brain is capable of completely understanding itself. In fact, for that matter, I don't believe we are simply our brains. An intangible mind beyond mere neurons is more appealing to me.

>> I agree with you. Nevertheless, the study of the brain is still fascinating and can help us understand aspects of ourselves. Perhaps there is a mind, perhaps there isn't. Although I would also like to believe that there is, there's no doubt that the mind is largely linked with the actions and reactions of a bunch of neurons. You cannot deny that your intangible mind is affected when chemicals (such as CH3CH2OH, your favorite chemical in beer) affect the functioning of your brain. What is more interesting is the possibility of a neurological explanation to phenomena that you might previously attribute to the mind. For example, although we still cannot explain intuition completely as a neurological process, there is growing evidence that it can be partially explained as a result when the brain hemispheres function independently for a time in the subconscious level.

> Yes, and yet when the hemispheres are independent permanently, the result is often negative for the overall functioning of the brain, as shown by those split-brain individuals who exhibit strange behavior and are seemingly incapable of creative thought. With the results of split-brain research, even creativity, a domain that I would previously firmly place within the confines of the "mind", is now partially explained as a neurological phenomenon.

>> It’s hard to accept, isn't it? Especially for creative persons and their creations, that their "minds" and "souls" can be explained as mere firing of neurons and their interactions with chemical compounds. Nevertheless, the body of empirical evidence cannot be ignored.

> Ah, but I don't think empirical evidence can completely explain things as complex as creativity. Even Resnik cautions against putting too much weight on data from researches on split-brain and other neurological damage. In fact, there are those with severe brain damage are capable of creative thought in some way yet at the same time degenerative brain diseases are found to degrade creativity. And the effects of drugs on the creative process may not be as direct as some pharmacological explanations suggest. For one, although I THINK I'm immensely creative whenever CH3CH2OH is in my bloodstream, the products that result are not thought to be even remotely creative by the rest of society.

>> I agree. Although chemicals can directly affect the brain, its effects on complex brain functions such as creativity are still not completely established. Even though research indicates that creative person are more likely to have greater psychopathology than normal people, I think the term "divine madness" as applied to creativity is more of a rhetoric than a psychiatric diagnosis.

> In other words, no matter how crazy Van Gogh appears to be, truly insane people do not invent Post-Impressionism.

>> Right.

> That guy who holds the world record for the most complicated surname put it clearly when he said that creative people have a rooted sense of reality no matter how rich their imagination may be.

>> I don't think Mike C. holds the world record for the most complicated surname. And I also don't think there is such a category for world records. Still, I tend to view the "madness" of creative persons as quite different from the "madness" of institutionalized persons.

> Mike is very eloquent in presenting the creative individual as a being of contradictions -- humble yet proud, passionate yet objective, rebellious yet conservative. I can really relate to his description because I see myself as a being of contradictions as well.

>> Insightful yet stupid? Or maybe you have had enough thinking for the day, and ready for another session of CH3CH2OH therapy?

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