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Old 02-14-2024, 01:57 PM
6 posts, read 2,534 times
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Because my best friend's wife has been diagnosed with frontotemporal aphasia at age 66, I've spent quite a bit of time in recent months in the literature of neuroscience. Aphasia is what Bruce Willis has. It can be a form of dementia in its own right or a symptom of Alzheimer's. Hers is Alzheimer's.

In my reading, I've gleaned a few interesting tidbits relative to the critical question of the nature of consciousness. No, I'm no expert – but neither are the characters here who like to pretend they are but whose "knowledge" (to use the term loosely) is far out of date. Take these tidbits for what they're worth:
  • Neuroscience has made huge strides in mapping the brain – determining which regions are responsible for what and stimulating those regions to produce various effects. Neuroscience has accomplished almost NOTHING in terms of explaining the brain or how it relates to consciousness. The media and much of the neuroscientific community (which is almost unalterably wedded to materialism) likes to tout the developments in mapping as though they were developments in explaining – but they simply are not. The nature of consciousness is as much or more of a mystery (at least in terms of a materialistic explanation) than it was decades ago.

  • When people in a Persistent Vegetative State are presented with nonsense questions – "Oodle poofle wagga boogy?" – the nonresponse is precisely what you would expect from someone in a Persistent Vegetative State. HOWEVER, when they are presented with meaningful questions – "Do you realize you are in a hospital?" – their brain activity is indistinguishable from that of a healthy brain.

  • Despite the mapping that has been achieved, vast portions of the brain in both animals and humans have been removed with little or no effect on cognition or motor skills. Some people with heads that are largely filled with water (congenital hydrocephalus) function so normally that the condition isn't even discovered for years.

  • Then we have terminal lucidity, a condition that wasn't even discussed in the medical literature until recent years but is now well-documented. People with conditions such as advanced Alzheimer's who have shown no cognitive abilities for years will suddenly and inexplicably become completely lucid a few days or (more commonly) a few hours before death. They will recognize people they haven't recognized for decades and engage in entirely lucid conversations.

  • The most well-documented, veridical Near Death Experiences are inexplicable in terms of current neuroscience. We're not talking about popular-level "What I saw in heaven" NDE accounts but those that have been well-documented and recognized in the medical literature.
It's beginning to seem like the crude analogy between the brain as a TV set and consciousness as the programming isn't too far off. Yes, you can stop the flow of programming by turning off, unplugging or damaging the TV set, but the programming continues to exist apart from the TV.

To say "Trust me – science will eventually find an answer and it will be a materialistic one" is no different from a theist's God of the gaps argument. It's a faith-based argument, albeit faith in science. If there is a materialistic answer, it will have to be one far outside the framework of materialism as currently posited.

I make no claims other than that (1) the materialistic paradigm is becoming a badly dented one insofar as consciousness is concerned; and (2) a non-materialistic explanation for consciousness would obviously open the door to survival and theism – it wouldn't prove them, but it would certainly make them plausible. I make no claim that "Trust me - a Creator God is the answer" even if that's what I personally believe.

Two recent books that I found worthwhile, and that will steer you to the more technical literature if you're interested, are:

Old 02-14-2024, 02:35 PM
Location: West Virginia
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Last edited by mensaguy; 02-25-2024 at 07:30 AM..
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