Updated map of the human brain hailed as a scientific tour de force

Jul 21, 2016

By Ian Sample

When the German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann first sliced and mapped the human brain more than a century ago he identified 50 distinct regions in the crinkly surface called the cerebral cortex that governs much of what makes us human.

Now researchers have updated the 100-year-old map in a scientific tour de force which reveals that the human brain has at least 180 different regions that are important for language, perception, consciousness, thought, attention and sensation.

The landmark achievement hands neuroscientists their most comprehensive map of the cortex so far, one that is expected to supersede Brodmann’s as the standard researchers use to talk about the various areas of the brain.


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

130 comments on “Updated map of the human brain hailed as a scientific tour de force

  • A recent paper (link here) reported serious bugs in the software used to interpret the data from fMRI scans – so serious, the authors claim, that it invalidates a lot of the work done in recent years. I couldn’t find much information in the Guardian article about the specific imaging and data analysis techniques used, but it seems likely there are not many of these software packages available. I’d be interested to hear comments from anybody with more knowledge on the subject .



    Report abuse

  • … perception, consciousness, thought, attention and sensation.

    All forms of knowing (except sensation). All knowledge is knowledge of an object. I’d argue that we cannot know ourselves by looking at a map of this kind. Nor can we know ourselves by looking in the mirror. That which knows can never know itself that way.

    As the notorious Otto Weininger (1880-1903) said (and this astonishing young man impressed Joyce, Freud, Wittgenstein, Strindberg and others, and blew my mind):

    No one can understand himself, for to do that he would have to get outside himself; the subject of the knowing and willing activity would have to become its own object.



    Report abuse

  • No one can understand himself, for to do that he would have to get outside himself; the subject of the knowing and willing activity would have to become its own object.

    This misses what we have learned. We are not singular. These old ideas are past their sell by date. We are minds that are a set of evolutionary layers much of which are automatic in their function. Our illusion of being only the top level inferential observer of ourselves, conceals the innate paradox by rewriting intentions to accommodate our automatic (if trained) selves. Post hoc narration may be one of the tricks keeping our disparate selves as a cohesive entity.

    Kahneman (amongst many) exposes our early developed selves and their heuristics. He also observes this stuff in himself.

    Just like the inferential rind of the cortex over our more animal selves, culture becomes a sort of super cortex co-opting bits of rational thinking and knowledge from many individuals yielding a yet higher grade (more phenominally stripped) form of inferential wisdom observing those beneath. By metaphor we may acquire a feel for this superhuman view (like understanding 3D curved space through imagining 2D curved substrates.)

    Again there are two forms of knowing (outside of cognition), mastery and understanding. It is only the latter that in its final details may elude us. As ever, these… er… elusions… will reduce to the quality of conscious experience and the Hard Problem.



    Report abuse

  • Phil

    Had trouble with that last one of yours. I was merely pointing out the gap, the difference, between Knowing and Being. Has this gap been filled? That would be miraculous.

    (How come you don’t address me by name anymore?)

    Again there are two forms of knowing (outside of cognition), mastery and understanding.

    These concepts need to be defined very precisely and thoroughly explained. Mastery is not knowledge; it presupposes knowledge. Outside of cognition? Two forms? I’m sorry, Phil; this does not ring true.



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    “Know” is a semantically slippery term. I want to be clear about what I mean using terms other than “know”. You will never see me using the term “to know” in any philosophical exchange.

    In psychology cognition (lazily referred to as knowing) comes from cognitio (learning) and cognoscere (getting to know). This is distinct from-

    Knowing (something), for people, comprises two parts, not necessarily both present at the same time. One confering a specific and contingent competence, the other an emotional engagement ultimately from familiarity.

    This is a crucial distinction and I cannot be persuaded into a lower resolution view of the world.



    Report abuse

  • Phil,

    You will never see me using the term “to know” in any philosophical exchange.

    I am surprised and actually feel bad for you. Is this Wittgenstein’s influence? I will, if you don’t mind, continue to use the word “know” in philosophical exchanges. By the way, learning is not knowing; learning is learning; mastery or competence is not knowledge per se; it presupposes (and requires) knowledge. You are just pouring water into a different vessel and diluting the original, and thereby rendering the original concept obsolete.

    I do admit that knowledge is a difficult thing to pin down. So is the term “experience.” It is all about context, however. Knowledge, when I use it, is usually perception. That too is a virtual synonym bordering on the tautological. But it suits me fine. It is better than saying (in a philosophical discussion) that we do not have knowledge, better than refraining from using the word.

    The reason why words are so slippery, as you said, is because the thing named and the named thing are not, can never be, one and the same thing. The word knowledge is not knowledge. Knowing something, perceiving, and then reflecting upon that perception, and then desiring to communicate that experience to another, are all parts of a common human experience, something we undoubtedly all do.

    We do know things; and this has given rise to the concept of knowledge.

    Do you know that is a screen in front of you? Do you not perceive it and know that you perceive it? Do you not know that it is there, or appears to be there? That is a philosophical question. Tell me what word other than know that I should use here, please.

    Read the Theaetetus.



    Report abuse

  • P.S. Learning and knowing are two entirely separate and distinct things. (So I am correct when I derisively that W says we don’t know anything!)

    We learn in order to know; we know how to learn.

    This is madness!

    Loggerheads.



    Report abuse

  • Dan.

    Knowledge is complex. Many different forms.

    This is my point.

    In colloquial speech I will happily use the word “know”, but not when I want to talk precisely, not in philosophy. I want people to understand, at least, but ideally to master the idea of knowledge categories that are inevitable (e.g. answering why questions) or merely possible ( answering how questions). Understanding, the former, mastery the latter.

    When you philosophically tell me X knows Y, you give me a mystery. It tells me nothing about X’s emotional satisfaction with Y. Is this knowledge now passivating. Is the search for knowledge of Y over now? It tells me nothing of X’s mastery of all things Y, given the information precisely demanded, able to predict all states of Y?

    We may understand without mastery.

    We may master without understanding.

    Most knowledge comprises elements of both. Our journey forwards may leave undertanding behind, until, I claim, familiarity leads us to a sense of understanding once more.

    Most scientists, with this categorisation explained to them I predict, would less often include what they know in the “understanding” set.



    Report abuse

  • Learning and knowing are two entirely separate and distinct things.

    Again my point about cognition and its exclusion from my preferred terminology.

    (Incidentally we must allow learning to be a temporary and even subconscious thing. Learning, may be a temporary scaffold for potential mental or physical action, swept away like most short term memories, and kept in some sense, at least, if actions and their memories happen. When “getting to know” and “knowing” are such transitory things… the chair blocks my path…gone next day, next minute… at that moment I know (understanding and mastery) the chair blocks my path, cognition is often taken as a process of knowing your surroundings, say. Hence its need for exclusion.)



    Report abuse

  • 10

    X knows you.

    Yes, what does this mean? Ambiguous, isn’t it. Well, just ask X and he will tell you, or at least try.

    The philosophy of language leaves me cold. Even the science of language fails to excite me. I am not unlike a conservative in this regard, wanting to stay in his comfort zone – out of fear. I admit it. Is that bad? We have to follow our intellectual instincts at times. I fear that picking these concepts (like knowledge, truth and beauty) to bits, will lead to intellectual and cultural desolation.



    Report abuse

  • What does that attitude tell you about my brain? By the way, we are not defined by our brains; our brains are defined by us. The will is prior to the brain (body). The brain is not essential to all life, and does not emanate from the brain. The brain was produced by the will. The will cannot possibly be in the brain. Decision making be be locatable and part of a map of the human brain, like the dubious one above; but decision making is not willing. Cells, and other brainless forms of life, have will.

    (Some day, and perhaps sooner than you think, I will back this all up with rock solid evidence, and turn the science world on its head. Highflown?)

    The will is more of a hard problem than consciousness, in my humble opinion.

    Your comment about knowing-someone reminded me of the final scene in the movie The Front, where Woody Allen was being interrogated by the House UnAmerican Committee: “Have you or anyone you know ever been a member of the communist party?” Woody says: “Why?” Then “What do you mean by know? Know in the Biblical sense? Know? What does that mean?”

    Questions like that belong in a comedy. And to demand or expect perfection from language, which we created, is nothing short of an intellectual crime. It all boils down to one thing: Wittgenstein! Wittgenstein.—That destroyer of minds. (Sorry, that is a judgment based on my honest experience – not gratuitous personalization.)



    Report abuse

  • Your comment about knowing-someone

    I made no such comment, at least intended no such.

    Person X knows thing Y. I apologise if this led you astray. Read it again to see if it makes more sense now.

    This is nothing mysterious, Dan. This is not about the philosophy of language. This is only trying to tease apart understandings that are already out there and used in these kinds of ways. This is only the same as Freud saying that Mind, its array of qualities, can be divided up like thus and so. Knowing can be divided up in very many other ways too, (semantic, biographical, procedural) and it is sometimes useful to divide these types of knowledge up, how they are got and held, how they are used. (Biographical knowledge is changed a bit each time it is used, accommodating its use!)

    The will is more of a hard problem than consciousness, in my humble opinion.

    I was not talking about hard problems I was talking about “The Hard Problem”. Even a supernatural Will is still be left with this same conumdrum which no mechanism seems fitted to explain.

    The map of the brain is not simply to product of fMRI scans. There are traditional anatomists, the new micro anatomists of the connectome project, the new microelectrode probers and implanters. The map is not “dubious” but part of an interconnected process that corroborates and refines.

    I have accused you before of conservatism. I’m glad you see this aspect. Because you can introspect like this (we have an inferential cortex that notices when we have failures of “will”) you can plot against your future self if you are adventurous. How can you rail against the comforting and consistent folly of the religious and the emotionally liberated, mindless rightwing hoardes? Is it OK to be like the sea squirt finding a comfy spot and becoming sessile, rooted and digesting its own brain? I feel I have left not one scintilla of truth and beauty behind…quite the reverse.



    Report abuse

  • Phil,

    I meant THE hard problem. The Will is not supernatural. When I can, I will explain exactly what I mean by will, although I have tried in the past, a number of times. If at first you don’t succeed….

    Sorry I am not a better listener. I’ll try to improve.

    Thanks, as always, for your generosity of spirit. You have the soul of an educator.



    Report abuse

  • OK to be like the sea squirt finding a comfy spot and becoming sessile, rooted and digesting its own brain?

    Speaking of sea squirts, I was just reading about them in the book, The Mystery of Metamorphosis, A Scientific Detective Story by Frank Ryan. The author claims that they experience a “dramatic and brutal metamorphosis.”

    So I was just wondering what everyone else is reading now in the doldrums of summer.

    Mods – if this is too off topic then zap it off. I’ll accept it without a peep.

    Mod reply – Thanks for that, Laurie. It is, really – or could easily become so. Perhaps a compromise would be to ask users to stick to recommendations of books with some kind of connection to the themes of the site?



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    You have the soul of an educator.

    That is very kind though, the truth is I have not spoken as carefully as I should.

    Teaching was one of the greatest pleasures for me when I did it.

    I have a strong sense of a cascade of teachers in a relay race. My dad was phenomenal in making everything interesting, a tale teller made so by a lucky encounter with a great scientist (and economist!) Professor Soddy. Taught for a while by Soddy who wandered far and wide intellectually, my dad’s intellectual life suddenly started opening out and never really stopped. Soddy was H.G.Well’s go to scientist and the source of much of his material.

    My son and daughter appear infected.



    Report abuse

  • Sorry Mods, though I’m sure I can work Tove Janson into a narrative about the subtle ways brains work. Really.

    I’m dotting through “The End” Phil Torres fairly promoted but rather unfairly treated here I think. It may prove a very useful if territfying account of the varieties of ways Trump in power could bring an end of days for us all.

    We could go over to the bullshit thread to talk literature?

    Mod reply – That seems a rather harsh judgement on literature 😉 But it would have the advantage that the topic of that OP has been well and truly thrashed out by now, whereas this thread is still quite new.



    Report abuse

  • Is it OK to be like the sea squirt finding a comfy spot and becoming sessile, rooted and digesting its own brain?

    It was worth reading this whole thread for that. Thank you Phil. This is perhaps the Most Important Question of all. From the RNC coverage, I take it the Trumpeters would proclaim “Yes, it is”. Most of them seem to have long ago completed this digestive process.



    Report abuse

  • “Is it OK to be like the sea squirt finding a comfy spot and becoming sessile, rooted and digesting its own brain?”

    I would say yes. They have survived for millions of years without our approval and will be here long after we are gone.
    However, not recommended for humans.



    Report abuse

  • “These look like modern Tiffany lamp designs. Which side is the front?”
    That would be the the left side. The orbital sockets are not shown but the cavity is visible.



    Report abuse

  • On Sea Squirts, I once read a Sci-Fi short story, human explorer of alien world thinks he’s getting someplace in communicating with one of the locals …. until it turns into a tree. Ring any bells? I’d like to find that story again, no idea of the author, it was in a collection.



    Report abuse

  • @dan
    Thanks. Not one of those stories. I think the creature was very sea-squirt-like, in that it was mobile and had a brain until it grew up. It seems this is a common enough theme.



    Report abuse

  • 37
    Pinball1970 says:

    @36
    Whether or not the data is flawed regarding which and how many areas of the brain are compartmentalised the last 100 years has demonstrated that it is.

    A great chapter on this is in Life ascending by Nick Lane (I am not his publicist – in case you were wondering)

    The brain can exhibit some incredibly bizarre but specific disorders as a result of trauma and disease.

    Very specific alterations to cognitive function, depending on the area affected.

    It makes the whole idea of a “personality” something of an illusion, remove or damage one cog and you can change things around a little.

    It certainly makes the whole idea of a “soul” a nonsense if you are that way inclined.



    Report abuse

  • As a related issue, there are also recent studies on the development of the teenage brain.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36887224
    Scans reveal how teenage brain develops

    A University of Cambridge team has identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teenage years.

    Brain scans showed that they are the areas associated with complex thought processes.

    The scientists also discovered a link between teenage brain development and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

    The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

    The team from Cambridge’s department of psychiatry scanned the brains of 300 people between the ages of 14 and 24.

    While the areas associated with the basic functioning of the body such as vision, hearing and movement are fully developed by adolescence, the areas associated with complex thought and decision making are still changing.

    These areas are nerve centres with lots of connections to and from other key areas.

    You can think of the brain as a global airline network that’s made up of small infrequently used airports and huge hubs like Heathrow where there is very high traffic.

    The brain uses a similar set up to co-ordinate our thoughts and actions.

    During adolescence, this network of big hubs is consolidated and strengthened. It’s a bit like how Heathrow or JFK have become gradually busier over the years.

    The researchers then looked at the genes involved in the development of these brain “hubs” and found that they were similar to those associated with many mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

    The discovery is in line with the observation that many mental disorders develop during adolescence, according to researcher Dr Kirstie Whitaker.

    “We have shown a pathway from the biology of cells in the area through to how people who are in their late teenage years might then have their first episode of psychosis,” she told the BBC.

    Many studies have shown that, in addition to genetics, stress during childhood and the teenage years is linked to mental illness.

    The new findings indicate that maltreatment, abuse and neglect may well continue to disrupt the development of the higher brain functions during the crucial teenage years and so contribute to the emergence of mental illness.

    Symptoms of schizophrenia:


    Delusions
    Difficulty thinking
    Feeling as though body is controlled by someone else.
    Hallucinations
    Loss of interest, energy and emotions

    Hmmmm! Symptoms of religion!

    (god-) Delusions

    Difficulty thinking (rationally)

    Feeling as though body is controlled by someone else.
    (Controller of the universe who rewards and punishes)

    Hallucinations (Visions/voices of God, Jesus, saints etc.)

    Loss of interest, energy (in continuing to learn about the real world of science)




    Report abuse

  • Phil, Alan, OHooligan, others:

    I just watched this Louis Theroux documentary for the BBC. It is obvious that parents CAUSE their children to be racists. So is the brain or the environment the primary cause of pathology and evil? I think it is, to some extent, the parents and other environmental causes. This is one reason why I regard your amygdala, etc. with some skepticism. Although I believe in inherited qualities and a priori knowledge, it is quite obvious that environment is the primary cause of much of the social and psychological ills of the world. The brain is a mere instrument, as it were, of environmental influences. It absorbs and presents sensations and knowledge; it does not create. I am not a scientist, am a rough-hewn, intuitive thinker (when it comes to science); but tell me what your take is on this, from a neuroscientific and evolutionary standpoint. Warning: this film is disturbing. But Theroux is marvelous. Please watch this and pay attention to the parent-child angle (which can be filed under education).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShFz7oHlms



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    This is one reason why I regard your amygdala, etc. with some skepticism.

    Why? There has to be mechanism. Mere mechanism. How are the effects to be achieved? You already understand how stress affects the amygdala.

    Theroux is wonderful. He is the arch supplier of enough rope.



    Report abuse

  • Dan #39
    Jul 27, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Phil, Alan, OHooligan, others:

    I think it is, to some extent, the parents and other environmental causes. This is one reason why I regard your amygdala, etc. with some skepticism. Although I believe in inherited qualities and a priori knowledge,

    This is the long established NATURE V NURTURE issue. Learned behaviours V instinctive behaviours. Any “a priori knowledge”, would be instinctive behaviours rather than actual “knowledge”.

    it is quite obvious that environment is the primary cause of much of the social and psychological ills of the world.

    Not really! In humans, there is a grand mixing of learned and instinctive behaviours, with some instinctive behaviours affecting the learning processes at various stages of development.

    @#38 – Many studies have shown that, in addition to genetics, stress during childhood and the teenage years is linked to mental illness.

    The brain is a mere instrument, as it were, of environmental influences.

    Not at all! (The amygdala is a part of the brain.)
    Many abnormal behaviours or abilities, are the result of the development of inherited features.
    In particular, the extent and rate of development of different sections of the brain and their interconnections.
    There are key inherited differences, such as the different connections in the male and the female brain.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture

    The phrase in its modern sense was popularized by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton, the modern founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics, discussing the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement.[4][5][6] Galton was influenced by the book On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, Charles Darwin.

    The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from “nurture” was termed tabula rasa (“blank slate”) by John Locke in 1690. A “blank slate view” in human developmental psychology assuming that human behavioral traits develop almost exclusively from environmental influences, was widely held during much of the 20th century (sometimes termed “blank-slatism”). The debate between “blank-slate” denial of the influence of heritability, and the view admitting both environmental and heritable traits, has often been cast in terms of nature versus nurture. These two conflicting approaches to human development were at the core of an ideological dispute over research agendas throughout the second half of the 20th century. As both “nature” and “nurture” factors were found to contribute substantially, often in an extricable manner, such views were seen as naive or outdated by most scholars of human development by the 2000s.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

    In their 2014 survey of scientists, many respondents wrote that the dichotomy of nature versus nurture had outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. The reason is that in many fields of research, close feedback loops have been found in which “nature” and “nurture” influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication. As in ecology and behavioral epigenetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature.[13][14] Similarly in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear, as in epigenetics[15] or fetal development.



    Report abuse

  • On the subject of brain development and the evolution of aptitudes to develop specific skills:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-36895395

    An orangutan copying sounds made by researchers offers new clues to how human speech evolved, scientists say.

    Rocky mimicked more than 500 vowel-like noises, suggesting an ability to control his voice and make new sounds.

    It had been thought these great apes were unable to do this and, since human speech is a learned behaviour, it could not have originated from them.

    Study lead Dr Adriano Lameira said this “notion” could now be thrown “into the trash can”.

    Dr Lameira, who conducted the research at Amsterdam University prior to joining Durham University, said Rocky’s responses had been “extremely accurate”.

    The team wanted to make sure the ape produced a new call, rather than adapting a “normal orangutan call with a personal twist” or matching sounds randomly or by coincidence, he said.

    The new evidence sets the “start line for scientific inquiry at a higher level”, he said.

    “Ultimately, we should be now in a better position to think of how the different pieces of the puzzle of speech evolution fit together.”

    The calls Rocky made were different from those collected in a large database of recordings, showing he was able to learn and produce new sounds rather than just match those already in his “vocabulary”.

    In a previous study Dr Lameira found a female orangutan at Cologne Zoo in Germany was able to make sounds with a similar pace and rhythm to human speech.

    Researchers were “astounded” by Tilda’s vocal skills but could not prove they had been learned, he said.

    However, the fact that “other orangutans seem to be exhibiting equivalent vocal skills shows that Rocky is not a bizarre or abnormal individual”, Dr Lameira said.

    The research, which also involved universities in the Netherlands, Germany, the USA and Liverpool John Moores University, has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

    Perhaps scans of Orangutan brains showing the activity in the areas involved and how these relate to equivalent human brains, would be interesting.



    Report abuse

  • Phil

    I think it was Attenborough and can’t remember the spider type (?) , the spider would return to its burrow with its prey, leave the prey about an inch from the mouth of the burrow, go in and check there are no intruders, come back out and pull its prey into its burrow. If however, you move the prey a couple of inches whilst the spider is checking for intruders, it resets and has to start the whole process again of leaving, checking and retrieving. No matter how many times you did it the spider would have to repeat. Is this schizophrenic or OCD, or both? It s seems its short term memory needs real structure?



    Report abuse

  • Phil, Alan, others:

    It looks like the same film. A little shorter. Thanks, Phil. Yes, Theroux is wonderful. It is almost comical the way he’s so non-confrontational. You see him sitting there nonchalantly with a drink in his hand as the Nazi guy spouts vicious racism, and helping out with household chores, the barbecue, etc. And yet he takes them on, has a lot of courage! “I think you’re a hypocrite,” he says to Metzger. (That’s at the end. The one you provided ended before that.) “You’re outvoted in civilized thought,” he says to the lady. To no avail.

    I don’t have anything I wish to add to the nature vs nurture argument at the moment. And I am a strong opponent of the blank slate. But I was hoping the film would raise a question, and illustrate a point that mustn’t be overlooked merely because it is obvious. There’s a woman named April. You can see how April got her hatred from her father. Perhaps she could have been a compassionate woman instead. Parents mostly shape their children. Then the children become parents. And on and on it goes throughout the ages. Now does the hate (in this case) affect the brain or is the brain being affected by the thoughts and feelings associated with this kind of perverted hatred? Is there an interplay?

    That mother with those singing kids! Those poor kids – basically normal kids – are damaged for life, the mother a child abuser, a criminal on a par with cold blooded murderers. People like her should be locked up, but we can’t lock up every parent that does this. Plus, they’re secretive. And she herself was a victim – and is now a criminal.

    So what do we do, Phil, Alan, operate on their f-ing brains!!?? That’s a horrifying thought. Where will that take us? No more ugly kids or less intelligent kids? Am I being ridiculous? Am I reading too much sci-fi? creating an unrealistic dystopian scenario again? too black and white? Perhaps.

    And as for a priori knowledge, Alan, I am using the word knowledge in a very specific and circumscribed way. It is not relevant to this discussion, however.



    Report abuse

  • P.S. “There has to be mechanism. Mere mechanism. How are the effects to be achieved? You already understand how stress affects the amygdala.” —P.R.

    “Fear is a physical response to danger.” — Daniel R. Weinberger of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Clinical Brain Disorders Branch.

    “The first situation phobias of children are darkness and solitude; the former often persists throughout life; common to both is the absence of the dear nurse, the mother. I once heard a child, who was afraid of the dark, call into an adjoining room, “Auntie, talk to me, I am afraid.” “But what good will that do you? You cannot see me!” Whereupon the child answered, “If someone speaks, it is brighter.” The yearning felt in darkness is converted into the fear of darkness.” —Freud



    Report abuse

  • Dan

    So what do we do, Phil, Alan.

    What I’ve been saying relentlessly to you. Educate them properly and lift folks out of poverty.

    Educate all kids to a national curriculum. Invest in their education. Disallow home schooling without the closest of monitoring. Insist on some outside access. Lay off the parental indoctrination with another view and with the tools of reason and compassion.

    It may take a generation or two for the families to lose their fear of others eating their lunch, but making them experience a generation or two of growing wealth of comprehensive health insurance whether they like it or not will eventually get them to lower their fear of others….

    It will take generations to fix. It is important not to be side-tracked into band aid fixing of this or that unsavoury problem. Focus on the big fix. Education and financial fear.



    Report abuse

  • Dan

    “The first situation phobias of children are darkness and solitude

    Ah, the affliction of the upper middle class child.

    Throughout history and certainly throughout pre-history children were never so abandoned at night as in Freud’s time and milieu. This analysis misses the mark that children depend on the brains of adults and elder peers to supplement their own as it is rewired from its exceptional neoteny. Night time is when they most often lose this support.

    As so many of the period he missed the key point that we (and children) are not “meant to be” as society currently has it. This species solipsism is the curse of religion and our supposed intended-ness.

    Children sharing with siblings mostly do not have these particular phobias. Nor Innuit children, nor South American Indian children, nor the very poor….



    Report abuse

  • Olgun

    The spider is not in any sense ill. The behaviour illustrates the simplicity of sense detectors and the simplicity of the heuristics used to carry out its feeding behaviours. Though evolution can lead to elaborate sequences of behaviours involving many inputs, these input detections can be pretty crappy.

    The mother read warbler accepts the monstrous big cuckoo chick and feeds it though it is clearly no longer its clutch of warbler chicks. It fools the mother by making the sound of a clutch of warbler chicks. The mother has no cortex only a titchy little pallium and cannot reason this out from other sensory data. The heuristic says OK (or not) and acts accordingly.

    Even for us humans with an inferential cortex if the amygdala fails to say friend, when friend it is, great intellectual error ensues. My Aunt (my dads sister) had a faulty amygdala that failed to signal friend(ly) when she saw my dad. She intellectually understood he looked exactly like my dad but without the warm glow of “friend” she interpreted what she saw as a a cheap chinese copy (sorry repeat).



    Report abuse

  • Ah, the affliction of the upper middle class child.

    Indeed, Freud, a product of his period, and location, and (dare I say it) “class”.

    Interesting, somewhat, from a historical or anthropological perspective, but nothing more. Certainly no deep well of universal truths to be found in his work, or his followers. Sorry Dan, wrong tree (again).



    Report abuse

  • On birds and spiders being tricked:

    With our better brainpower giving us the ability to notice when a bird is feeding a cuckoo chick instead of a brood of its own, or a spider being misled into a whole (to us, obviously unnecessary) repetitive process, we forget that we too can be fooled. We can’t tell sodium light (a single frequency) from a blend of the frequencies we perceive separately as red and green, and we can exploit this kind of inaccurate perception to make photographs and videos that look “realistic” using only 3 colours of light, or of ink. Some advanced alien observer with more accurate perceptions might be amused at how easily our senses are fooled. That’s just one example that sprang to mind.



    Report abuse

  • OHooligan #54
    Jul 28, 2016 at 3:23 am

    We can’t tell sodium light (a single frequency) from a blend of the frequencies we perceive separately as red and green, and we can exploit this kind of inaccurate perception to make photographs and videos that look “realistic” using only 3 colours of light, or of ink. Some advanced alien observer with more accurate perceptions might be amused at how easily our senses are fooled.

    This is probably why a Mantis Shrimp can catch camouflaged prey!

    http://phys.org/news/2013-09-mantis-shrimp-world-eyesbut.html
    Mantis shrimp vision puts everything else to shame.
    They have up to 16 photoreceptors and can see UV, visible and polarised light. In fact, they are the only animals known to detect circularly polarised light, which is when the wave component of light rotates in a circular motion. They also can perceive depth with one eye and move each eye independently.




    Report abuse

  • Phil #52

    Thanks Phil. I wasn’t thinking of schizophrenia or OCD as an illness but maybe an evolutionary process in the brain. Not knowing anything in depth and with reference to the OP, I thought of a process where parts of the brain where not as fluid in the spider and almost acted independently and needed their own reassurances. So the many eyes of a spider not quite making a single brain. A symbiotic body that has not yet evolved a “self” illusion of a single animal. In the OP, a 180 different “skills” brought together to act as one.



    Report abuse

  • Phil, others:

    That’s true: fear of the dark is not a universal fear; I wanted you to contrast Freud’s insight about that phobia with a one-sided biological explanation of fear. The former is less boring (to me).

    And you said that education is the answer. That is exactly what I am saying. The brain is not the primary cause of what makes us what we are; there is a cause behind the cause; it is as much a cause of fear and other emotions and personality traits as a muscle is a cause of movement. Environmental factors compelled beings to lift objects, and they developed muscles. If we are less muscular now it is because the environmental conditions have been altered. Studying the brain and tampering with it is the wave of the future. But I am for a restoration of introspection, and psychoanalytic investigation. Education will make the amygdala smaller? What? Then what is all this emphasis on that non-human organ inside our skull? (Written quickly. Watching the convention. Katy perry is lip-sinking. Big surprise.)



    Report abuse

  • Cont.

    “OCD an evolutionary process in the brain.” Oy vey.

    My question:

    So what do we do, operate on brains?

    Two answers:

    “Learning how to live with neural diversity is the trick.”

    “[No.]Educate them properly and lift folks out of poverty.”

    Phil, these are your answers to the same question, if I remember correctly. The latter suggests that we can now take an active role in what has been, throughout the greater part of our history as a species, an unconscious process: the evolution of our brain. (Is that correct?)



    Report abuse

  • OHooligan 53

    No universal truths uncovered? What about the Oedipus Complex, my friend? That is a universal law of mental life. No? You are denying that? That denial is evidence itself that the theory is valid. And then you went on (Comment 54) to discuss birds. You took flight. And you have been mentioning trees a lot lately. Lie down on the couch….



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    Freud’s just so stories have harmed countless thousands of mental health sufferers (Neurotribes Steve Silberman). By misunderstanding the substrate of the mind and invoking some generalised inferential jelly, suffering has been worsened. It doesn’t matter that you personally like that kind of explanation, invoking “refrigerator mothers” as the root of autism was monstrous and compounded suffering and dragged it on a whole generation longer than needed. (I won’t detail all the examples, but the unevidenced confidence of institutional psychiatrists from 1950 to 1980 particularly has been a disgrace.)

    By understanding properly the substrate of the mind in all its myriad little parts, from its contingent social and cultural affects through to its genetic and manufacturing variability we can treat with far less harm the suffering, we can educate a society to tolerate with compassion.

    My aunt in suffering from Capgrass syndrome probably demonstrated the effect of an ischaemic stroke near her amygdala and had she not been very old at the time would have possibly been treated by surgery.

    This astonishing discovery of over-imitation in children, understanding the neurological story of neotenous less-formed brains and their safety net of mirror neurons for elders to take better control of their young minds illustrates the new kind of narratives with real power to offer deep insights into the human condition.

    This comes from using the substrate of the mind as your starting place.

    Oedipus? Schmoedipus! So long as he loves his mother…



    Report abuse

  • Olgun

    In humans, schizophrenia and OCD are potentially both forms of partial memory loss, semantic in the former (how the world works) and biographical in the latter (did I lock the door?). In moderation both these can be valuable, the former encourages a rethink about understanding and may drive invention the latter encourages a double check. Such useful modest failures can only work in the most sophisticated of circumstances. Its difficult to see a deep evolutionary history to them, but if I crank up my schiz side maybe I could come up with something?



    Report abuse

  • Phil #61

    Thanks again Phil.

    Such useful modest failures can only work in the most sophisticated of
    circumstances.

    My mind is stuck on the simplicity of communication between a not so complicated connections of two or maybe tree parts of the brain only switching on when another is satisfied. Isn’t a small connection better than none at all for evolutionary processes? I just think that if there is a switch to be made then it must have had a primitive version through evolution. Perhaps the cuckoo knows it is feeding some other bird but has no control over its instinct and lives a shcitophrenic life always? We developed this sense of ‘self’ as a consequence of better communication between parts of the brain and a new mediator part?



    Report abuse

  • I think we can safely say that most of what Fraud (spelling intentional) had to say has been proven as complete balderdash! The man was just sex obsessed! He clearly forgot that breathing, eating, defecating and urinating are all upstream of the basic sexual urges….
    But no, he just wanted to talk about “dirty” sex……



    Report abuse

  • Olgun,

    There is little science in evolutionary psychiatry. Its hypotheses are another form of just so story with little epidemiological support. Worse, these tales seem to me when I look at them occasionally, complex and convoluted…inelegant.

    Not a fan. I’ll be happier when someone cares enough to do the epidemiological research. No takers yet though….



    Report abuse

  • There is little science in evolutionary psychiatry

    Just to be sure, does that mean there never will be or that it is not being done properly? (Sorry, the spider still fascinates me but understand I might have taken a wrong turn. Still……shows I’m thinking)



    Report abuse

  • (Sorry, the spider still fascinates me)

    Aye, I have long been fascinated by the attack instincts of female house spiders, Just capture a bluebottle, remove it’s wings, place into the web and watch the startling speed of the spider as it grabs and takes the fly back into it’s web-den. Then do the same with a common European wasp, and the spider is a LOT more cautious in it’s approach! – How does it know the difference?? and how does it know that the wasp has a sting!!



    Report abuse

  • M27Holts

    Yes there are many fascinating things about spiders but the one I mentioned above and its reset behaviour is the one I find intriguing and maybe connected, or so I thought.

    It may just be reacting to the aggression of the wasp?



    Report abuse

  • A while back I attended a lecture on spiders at Harvard. The lecturer had beautiful photographs of spiders and one of them showed a female on her gorgeous web and there were a multitude of males all around the web with (I assume) amorous intentions. No surprises there but what stopped me in my tracks was that they were minute in size compared to the female. I thought, what the hell is going on here? Why would males that are in competition to mate be smaller than her?

    When I got home I jumped on the internet and got my answer. The little guys can tiptoe out onto the web with the least amount of disturbance and they have the best chance of avoiding an immediate attack resulting in their being eaten instead of the prize that they had planned on getting. The bigger guys must prompt their own demise with heavy footfalls and then take themselves out of the gene pool.

    In the case of these spiders, little guys win the day!



    Report abuse

  • Also when a male has to complete for females (as in most mammals) – the male is invariably larger than the female. The bigger the harem, the bigger the male (as in Elephant seals).



    Report abuse

  • Laurie

    My wife calls me tiny..? :-0

    This May, the common garden spider nest hatched and a few weeks later, on the other side of my small garden, one of these tiny little creatures spun a perfect tiny web on some bamboo I have up. I didn’t have a macro lens then and the spider was too small to show up on the photos I took. Even the web was too small for me to capture the beauty. I didn’t know they spun webs when so small. Anything bigger than greenfly would have overpowered it.



    Report abuse

  • Dear Phil (#60),

    I am just saying that Freud was a genius, was a mighty discoverer, is absolutely fascinating, oftentimes penetrating, and that and everyone who has any intellectual curiosity at all should read him. Jesus. Thou doth protest too much! What’s the matter with you? Wait a minute: did some Freudian asshole schnook therapist fuck you up years ago? If that is the case, move on. You’re over that now. Read Freud again and take a little break from the neuro bunch.

    Best,

    Dan

    P.S. “Oedipus scmoedipus.” Here’s one: Oedipal Schmoedible; she (my mother) is edible.



    Report abuse

  • Olgun

    PR:There is little science in evolutionary psychiatry

    .

    O; Just to be sure, does that mean there never will be or that it is not being done properly?

    Its not really being done at all yet. BUT/AND most of the hypotheses are not of a scientific form as they stand, further, most lab tests that could be conceived for the rest would be unethical, leaving a weak form of epidemiology to provide a correlation between self reports and historic accounts or pre-civilisation anthropological data from say hunter gatherer societies like the few remaining in the Amazon basin and parts of Liverpool.



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    I am just saying that Freud was a genius,

    Yep agreed a while ago. Move on.

    My error in #60 was to write Freud’s just so stories.

    I better meant The Freudian’s just so stories.

    And don’t get me started on Jungians….. wait…no… race memory..?… Jack London….?

    Noooooo!!!!



    Report abuse

  • Thanks, bonnie #76.

    The undeveloped hippocampus is most of it, but children do form memories at that time as they make use of biographical memories even at two. They do subsequently get lost and probably damaged. Memories are indexed and retrieved by a chain or chains of associations. In navigating these chains we find the memories we need. As toddlers our associative corteces (the source of metaphorical cross linking) peak in random cross linking at 18 months when we have the most complex brains. Subsequently this complexity is pruned away over the years and the referencing chains using these metaphorical links may be cut away also. Incomplete pruning often leads to synaesthesia and if this theory is correct we may expect synaesthetes to have more intact early memories.

    Because biographical memory works by refreshing and supplementing at each memory retrieval we would expect children constantly quizzed over their recollections to re-write biographical memories before their referencing links are too damaged and re-written on an increasingly stable substrate.



    Report abuse

  • Laurie,

    I have a big confession over Jung.

    In my teens I tried my best to become spiritual. My motives though were entirely honourable. It was to get off with girls.

    The nerd needed softening and Jung was the most credible way I could pull off the deception. Long after, the moral revulsion and deep shame set in…all those girls…thinking I liked Jung! At least in being totally ineffective my taste for Jung vanished.



    Report abuse

  • Phil

    As far as deceptions to get girls go…yours doesn’t even rank on the list that I know. You have my permission to put this entirely out of your mind. Anyhow, at about the same time in a different place I was a great fan of astrology. Ah, those were the days my friend.

    Right. So like you said above, move on!



    Report abuse

  • Phil, others:

    There is rigidity and some “groupism” (which I accept as inevitable) here on this site too. (“Loyalty”.) Neuroreligion? Don’t get me wrong: neuroscience is valuable and is legitimate. But there are other avenues, other modes of inquiry, other ways of thinking about the mind!

    I don’t give a shit about “Freudians”, and never said I did.

    I have never been a huge fan of Jung. But he was no idiot. You almost sound like Trump when you characterize, label, dismiss him as spiritual (and nothing else).

    Now Wilhem Stekel! (1868-1940) Now there’s a psychologist for you. Read his case studies (Compulsion and Doubt) dealing with obsessional neurosis (OCD) and then ask yourself whether psychoanalytic investigation is obsolete!



    Report abuse

  • Oh get off it Dan! 😀 We’re just having a little fun. Just egging you on that’s all. Are you gonna fall for it?

    After all, what’s a little Freud bashing between friends, eh?



    Report abuse

  • Phil 80

    P.S. As much as I dislike, and as much as I am suspicious, of neuroscience, I think that some of Wittgenstein’s ideas, concerning memory, for example, are trumped by the facts of neuroscience. And that’s fine with me. But I worry that neuroscience will replace, will usurp, all other modes of inquiry, other ways of thinking about the experiences of the mind. But, many of these processes (such as memory and recognition) are clearly biological, and can be explained, and are now understood by brain physiologists.



    Report abuse

  • Phil
    Your link brought me to a page titled “Are geminis romantic?” Then the page was blank. I’ll just assume that the answer was quite positive. That’s how astrology goes. Everything you want to believe about yourself delivered straight to you. This is not to say that you aren’t actually romantic, or that I’m not actually strong willed, decisive and steady – as a taurus that is. Ok, this is just flat out stupid. Teenager drivel. Thank goodness two semesters of statistics came along. That was the end of that.



    Report abuse

  • Laurie 85

    Thank you. I was crying before. You’re nice.

    Pence just said that the name calling has to stop! Typical bullies. They can dish it out…

    I can’t stand Trump!



    Report abuse

  • Dan

    86 was a very decent nod to neuroscience. I personally see no reason for you to be worried. I have moved from full on feminism and astrology to evo psych and embraced a data driven life with hardly a psychological scar to be seen. Take a deep cleansing breath and dive into the cool bracing world of experimental design, reams of data, and the view of life as a multitude of probability equations.

    Dan, you are your brain. I am my brain. They’re very good and interesting brains! What’s not to like? “What a long strange trip it’s been.”



    Report abuse

  • Laurie, I don’t entirely agree with you on this one. (That’s okay!) We are not our brains. Think about what you’re saying. It doesn’t even make sense. The brain is an organ – and it is an object, as is the rest of our body. It is not a subject. All knowledge is knowledge of an object. I’d argue that we cannot know ourselves by looking at the brain. Nor can we know ourselves by looking in the mirror. That which knows can never know itself that way. The “I” , the pure subject, what we are in ourselves (and not the knowing I) remains inscrutable… and yes, a mystery.

    When that Soviet cosmonaut entered space for the first time he said: “There is no God.” If you crack open the skull and look inside the brain, you will never find a human being, a person, a self. What you’ll see is a bunch of … Google images of the interior of the brain. You, Laurie, are not your brain. (I admit that what I am saying may sounds like mysticism; I get that a lot; just thought I’d save myself the trouble of hearing it again.)

    “No one can understand [know] himself, for to do that he would have to get outside himself; the subject of the knowing and willing activity would have to become its own object.”

    I would most definitely say: “I am a brain”; but that’s just an expression… I am also a Taurus (May 9), and “love everything good and beautiful.”



    Report abuse

  • Phil (and Laurie)

    The brain is not exactly in the body; it is part of the body. Is the body in the body? What do you mean: “you are your brain”? Does that mean “you are you”? or does it mean “brain is brain”? (I am being entirely serious,)

    Yes, culture does exist, and it is inhabited. That I think that we can agree on.



    Report abuse

  • Ok, Dan

    Is that resignation? exasperation? What does that mean?

    My questions are valid. They are old questions, ancient ones. What is Being? What are we? I will not throw in the towel and say: the former is matter, and the latter is the brain. No! My intellectual conscience will not permit it.



    Report abuse

  • Dan

    There’s a reason why I kept my mouth shut when you guys were deep into your discussions of W and S. As I admitted way back when, I’m very sadly incompetent to participate. The only contributions I could make are at dunce level. Fair warning. 🙁

    So when you say

    The brain is an organ – and it is an object, as is the rest of our body. It is not a subject.

    Why can’t the brain be a subject? What’s wrong with that? Can’t the heart or kidneys or blood be a subject? We have specialists who spend their whole life investigating these other body parts and these investigations are subjects. Cardiology, nephrology and hematology are all subjects dealing with those body parts. So if a cardiologist learns every single thing about the anatomy of the heart and then all of the mechanical and electrical features and then puts it all together to understand the function of that body part, how is that different from what the neurologists and the neuroscience bunch are getting at? We’re not afraid of what the cardio science bunch are telling us so why would we be afraid of what the neuro bunch has in store for us? Why defend against it?

    Ok. What am I missing here?



    Report abuse

  • Nor can we know ourselves by looking in the mirror. That which knows can never know itself that way. The “I” , the pure subject, what we are in ourselves (and not the knowing I) remains inscrutable… and yes, a mystery.

    Ok Dan, so here is where you are referring to the problem of subjectivity. Now rest assured that this is a known problem in experimental design. I always feel a zing of thrilling admiration for a well crafted experimental design that sneakily works it’s way around the human tragic propensity to see themselves as the center of the universe and the only biological life form that matters. We must trick our experimental subjects to reveal their true feelings! Yes! And it’s all in their own best interests and in our best interests if we get any result that is statistically significant. Et-hem.

    what we are in ourselves (and not the knowing I) remains inscrutable… and yes, a mystery.

    Dude-bro, I’ve got to tell you that the mystery is being chipped away day by day, hour by hour and soon you will be clinging onto three molecules of fluff by your bleeding fingernails. This is so totally on topic. It’s a crap comment but at least I’m proud to be on topic for a change.

    You, Laurie, are not your brain.

    I’m pretty confident that I am my brain – the accumulation of the electrical and chemical activity that takes place between a gazillion neurons that are stuffed into this skull. After that there have been fifty years of interaction between those neurons and the people who were closest to me and then in the wider world. The culture, as Phil pointed out. The brain I got and the culture I got and all of the experiences that happened in all of those years. It all adds up to this H. sapiens that is sitting here typing out a message to someone who is allegedly sitting in an apt in Manhattan. Another taurus who loves everything good and beautiful like only a taurus can. (May 2)

    Are you ready to dump me for Phil yet? Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.



    Report abuse

  • Have a good week-end.

    Thanks, you too. 🙂

    Ok…dumped. That was quicker than I thought it would be. Ok Phil, he’s all yours!

    Actually, Bill Maher’s show just started. Dan, you dumped me for Bill Maher, didn’t you!!!!



    Report abuse

  • Hi, Laurie,

    I think Phil is exasperated.

    The subject (in this context) is the knower. The object is that which is known. This is the famous (or relatively famous) subject-object division. (It’s famous if you’re into philosophy.) Can you believe that this division has been called into question? Such decadent times we are living in.

    (The pure subject is what we are in ourselves. This is not that which knows. Nor is it an object. Most scientists and contemporary philosophers, and everyone I have talked to on this website, and the vast majority of people in the world, reject the idea of a thing-in-itself; I don’t.)

    So to answer your question, a spleen cannot be a “subject” in so far as it does not have knowledge (of an object). It is, and must remain, an object.

    Same with the brain. It is an object. And it is the seat of knowledge. But that which knows can never know itself. It is impossible to be both an object and a knowing subject; moreover, a knowing subject can never be a pure subject; the intellect (brain) divides the world of pure Being (and this includes us!) into subject and object. —That is what I am contending.

    Have a good week-end. 🙂



    Report abuse

  • Dumped? What do you mean? You’re reading into my “Have a nice week-end”. By the way, I’m confused: I was in the process of editing when you posted. My final post (posted at 10:00pm) was posted after your posted reply (9:58pm). Here’s my final post (above). Did you read this, my most up-to-date post, in its entirety? It took me twenty minutes to compose.

    (Post. Nice word.)



    Report abuse

  • Dan
    Yes, those two comments crossed paths weirdly. I noticed that too. Yes I read it.

    Did you watch Bill Maher’s show? Cornel West was on. We had just mentioned him a few days ago.



    Report abuse

  • I missed it. I watched Lawrence O’Donnell. He interviewed the Muslim parents that lost their heroic son in Iraq. The father spoke at the convention, with his wife by his side. Did you see that? He was excellent. (It’s on YouTube.)

    P.S. I am opposed to war, almost a pacifist – but heroism is heroism.



    Report abuse

  • Phil (and Laurie), others:

    Here is one of my better posts. (I am erratic.)

    Phil, you are not obligated to reply to this (immediately); perhaps you need a break; but let me just say this: don’t you see how absurd it is to say that we are our brains? What—When we attempt to judge what we as living beings are must we separate ourselves from the rest nature and assume that consciousness (along with all the other things that the brain does) is an indispensable element? Well many living things are and yet have no consciousness. Therefore, to define human beings, or homo sapiens, as brains is tantamount to saying that possessing brains separates us, divides us absolutely as living beings, from the rest of nature. This is insupportable. My premise is that it if we are our brains than our brains are our essence. But then what is a tree or a flower or a jellyfish? They also exist. Brains are not essential for life, and if you believe that there is something that unites us with the rest of the natural world (past and present) of living organisms, of all species (homogeneity), it cannot be our brains, can it?

    We are our brains? A judgment based on the old dogmatic assumption that knowledge is primary. And there is something arbitrary about it too. Why not say that we are DNA? or cells? or blood? Those things are as vital to life as the brain. Can we live without them?

    A similar counter-argument can be presented in reply to the arguments made by mechanistic materialists when they attempt to establish what things are, when all they are really doing is telling us what they know, what they see, what they observe. They might say, when attempting to establish what something is, as they delude themselves into thinking that they have peeled away all the layers and exposed the irreducible thing itself: behold: energy! or behold: subatomic particles! or behold: matter itself!

    “Those who in our own day are entering anew on this old, misleading path, will soon slink back silent and ashamed, as all their predecessors have done before them… Materialism… even at its birth, has death in its heart, because it ignores the subject and the forms of knowledge, which are presupposed, just as much in the case of the crudest matter, from which it desires to start, as in that of the organism, at which it desires to arrive.” —S.



    Report abuse

  • Morning, chaps.

    We can start talking of ourselves in a Selfish Meme sort of way. Memes, units of cultural exchange, or ideas, are not yet a scientifically formed concept, but I believe they can be if true memes are simple muscle based skills like speech and the other stuff seen as meme-complexes that are ordered, filtered and error corrected by the true meme skills of language. These memeplexes are not as Susan Blackmore has them genetic and unitised also. They are the raggy, ill-defined agglomerate things of RNA World, strewing tatters and acquiring detritus along the way morphing rapidly around an increasingly robust heart. Models of RNA World run on computers show processes, that to my mind resemble the world of ideas kept from tipping over into chaos by the higher fidelity copying of smaller simpler components….thank you childhood mirror neurons and over-imitation.

    Dawkins talks of bodies as survival machines for genes. In our new, never before seen, world with an inferential rind AND opposable thumbs and the lucky break of a too narrow birth canal forcing neotony, we have Memes of super infective/copyable form. In another sense we are our memes, all those skills and habits “gifted” to us from early on, the substrate for later more complex acquisitions, but also those memes not yet shared, yet to be shared, never shared proto-memes. Memes have hijacked our gene survival machine turning it into a meme survival machine. Memes are so powerful replicators that some of them create new survival machines in books and databases like Alexandria or like my phone.

    I have proposed that our sense of ourselves moment to moment flows from the need to have a compact model of ourselves to anticipate and rehearse what we might do next. By continually, if subconsciously, asking ourselves the question who am I now (Quisnunc) we generate the necessary usable (compact) model. We are a particular moving feast of memes, memeplexes and protomemes living in a meme survival machine, in the much grander meme survival machine of our culture(s).

    There. Not a mention of Jello.



    Report abuse

  • Schopenhauer’s quote really is the root of your problem, he and you failing to grasp the varieties of “to know”, straw-manning materialism over its understanding

    My premise is that it if we are our brains than our brains are our essence. But then what is a tree or a flower or a jellyfish? They also exist. Brains are not essential for life, and if you believe that there is something that unites us with the rest of the natural world (past and present) of living organisms, of all species (homogeneity), it cannot be our brains, can it?

    Whats this muddle? There is life and there is conscious life. All life is connected sharing stardust and physics, so, and?

    Brains are for movement. Then they got a bit smart alec making signs, planning movements, reading others movements….



    Report abuse

  • phil rimmer #105
    Jul 30, 2016 at 4:11 am

    Whats this muddle? There is life and there is conscious life. All life is connected sharing stardust and physics, so, and?

    The brain is the specialised commander, riding on top of earlier biological systems, but nerves and chemical messengers permeate the whole body.
    This in no way challenges the dominant specialised role of the brain and sensory system in being aware of the environment, although other factors do have effects.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/07/how-the-immune-system-controls-social-behavior/



    Report abuse

  • Alan, a very pertinent link. Thank you.

    OHooligan, cynic.

    Those born between May 20th and June 20th are indeed romantic (when the occasion demands). They are assured air breathers also, stopping only when dead.



    Report abuse

  • Dan, Dan

    Richard’s your man

    RD: And PLEASE ignore the foolishly provocative remark about Marx and Freud. I’ve no idea who wrote it. I’d ask the mods simply to remove that first paragraph, but I suppose it’s too late for that now. But please don’t let it derail the thread.



    Report abuse

  • Dan #111

    Therefore, the essential uniting element is something else

    The one thing that unites us is the ability to exist in this universe through its ‘laws’.

    Edit: My post jumped back a post?

    Edit: Perhaps you were editing when I posted Dan?



    Report abuse

  • Good afternoon, everyone!

    Phil, others:

    Thanks for letting me know about that comment from my hero Dawkins. I am not surprised. You see? I was right! I know Dawkins (not personally) and he is way too smart to have approved of an intellectually polluting remark like that. And he also observes, as I did, that it was written anonymously.

    Speaking of Dawkins doesn’t he (correctly) say that we are distant cousins of the chimp, etc.? So then why aren’t we even more distant “cousins” of living beings without brains? My point was that whatever it is that unites us (if anything) it can’t be associated with the brain. Therefore, the essential uniting element is something else. Not stardust. And I purposefully chose to limit this idea, of a uniting quality, to organic life; to include all of nature –the organic as well as the inorganic – would complicate even further an idea already subject to controversy, confusion and misunderstanding.

    The uniting quality, whether it be DNA or whatever, is still not the essence I am alluding to. DNA is observable, is used in evidence, is real, is a species of matter.

    If we are alive and are distant cousins of the chimpanzee than we are cousins of bacteria, of cells of all the forms of organic life – past and present, presumably. And brains are not common to all organic life. My logic is incontestable.

    Schopenhauer’s quote really is the root of your problem, he and you failing to grasp the varieties of “to know”, straw-manning materialism over its understanding.

    You have used many substitutes for knowledge since we’ve met. Mastery, for example. They seem like almost desperate attempts to make a case for the empiricist , or realist, claim of a knowable thing-itself (something prior to matter). I don’t straw-man.

    By the way, I have head Dawkins in many discussions. I could be mistaken, but I think he regards that idea of cultural memes with suspicion and disdain, does not hold that concept in very high regard.



    Report abuse

  • Dan #110
    Jul 30, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    By the way, I have head Dawkins in many discussions. I could be mistaken, but I think he regards that idea of cultural memes with suspicion and disdain, does not hold that concept in very high regard.

    You do realise, that he invented the use of this term in that context!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
    A meme (/ˈmiːm/ MEEM)[1] is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

    The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous:



    Report abuse

  • Alan4discussion #112
    July 30 at 1:27 pm

    Okay, I stand corrected, Alan, but I could have sworn that he said something about memes in that context that suggested skepticism. It was a while back. Perhaps someone else had misappropriated the term and was using it in a way that was not consistent with he had originally meant. That does happen frequently.

    There were some jokes about astrology, and I regard it as pure nonsense as well, but I am not so sure about telepathy. (And I have one striking anecdotes.) Have any serious studies yet been done in this are and if not do you think there will be in the future?



    Report abuse

  • Yes, Olgun,

    I may have been editing while you were posting.

    Alan, Olgun, Phil:

    You know far more than I do about evolution. Isn’t DNA common to all living creatures, to all the species, suggesting one common ancestor, or is this an ignorant question? If that is the case then there is something other than the brain that unites all living creatures – past and present– and that is something that I wanted to establish first. My comment (103) was a challenge to the notion that human life is not defined by the brain in so far as nothing living need be defined by any one trait or organ. There are living things without brains and living things without hearts, without blood, etc.

    Phil, I should have limited my idea of a uniting quality even further – to animal life. The gap between animal and vegetable life is too great. But a tree is closer to a man than a stone, is it not? But if we confine ourselves to thinking about what unites animal life, how can it be the brain? Again, I ask you this. And if it is not the brain then we are not our brains in so far as that is not essential and common to life as a whole, on this planet.

    I have The Origin of Species. I should read it. (For information and corroboration.)



    Report abuse

  • Phil, Olgun, et al:

    From comment 114: “My comment (103) was a challenge to the notion that human life is not defined by the brain in so far as nothing living need be defined by any one trait or organ.”

    Correction: My comment (103) was a challenge to the notion that life (and human life is just one form of life) IS defined by the brain; and I base this on the opposing notion that life is one thing and the brain is something else.

    So if a complex single cell that had DNA is our common ancestor, then it follows from that that brains are not what we once were and not what we will necessarily become and therefore not what we are. I understand the importance of the brain, but refuse to admit that it is what we (descendants of those early cells with DNA) are. I would say that Living Beings, biologically connected to all other living beings – past and present – are what we are, and that, of course, begs the question…. Well, let me stop there.

    I think I’ll start with the Selfish Gene. Thanks, Olgun.

    From comment 92: “Yes, culture does exist, and it is inhabited. That I think that [sic] we can agree on.” Lousy sentence.



    Report abuse

  • Dan #111

    You have used many substitutes for knowledge

    Noooo! Oh, please notice what I say. I have analysed knowledge and offer component parts.

    They seem like almost desperate attempts to make a case for the empiricist , or realist, claim of a knowable thing-itself (something prior to matter). I don’t straw-man.

    This is something I have used now for many years. Your comment has it almost entirely wrong. My use of this analysis is as much about how we will increasingly be cheated of understanding from our knowledge. How and why knowledge is quite distinct. One day you may even address the substance of what I’m saying. You never have to date.

    I’m sorry you took against my account of minds as meme machines. I thought you might like an account of minds without a hint of physicality. You notice I called meme theory not scientific (as Richard would be the first to admit) but proposed a means to make it so. This again is something I’ve worked on for a couple of years now. I even thought it might give you some opportunity to explain your still spooky looking account of minds.

    I am drawn deeply to underlying physics and the power of life to undo entropy itself however transiently, but I LOVE mammal minds like no other.



    Report abuse

  • This

    So if a complex single cell that had DNA is our common ancestor, then it follows from that that brains are not what we once were and not what we will necessarily become and therefore not what we are.

    is quite logic free.

    I emotionally identify with things that are capable of identity. They quisnunc (who now?) themselves however modestly. The sexiest eukaryote loaded with all the latest organelles is indistinguishable from billions of others.



    Report abuse

  • @phil

    By continually … asking ourselves the question who am I now …we generate the necessary usable (compact) model.

    So, I am my own cover story? Cynical me (you got me dead to rights on that score) loves it. It explains to me how people can become their own cover story, and really become a caricature of themselves.

    ps Phil, your patience with Dan does not go unnoticed. I find it admirable. And educational.



    Report abuse

  • Phil 120, OHooligan 121

    What do you mean then by “knowing”, Phil, when you say that we can know something that doesn’t have any physical properties?

    And it is not illogical to assert that we are not brains. Listen, we are living beings. Everything that lives IS something.

    These two points are related. What is it that unites all human beings? It is NOT consciousness; that is an ancient dogmatic assumption. What unites all living beings? It cannot be consciousness. So when I say that “we” are not our brains, I mean all living animal organisms,. Some animal organisms do not have brains.

    So what can we know then about what constitutes the fundamental, primary element of life (which we are connected to and not separate from)? (Right, OHooligan? Well my patience with you is deserving of admiration too, and has come from the goodness of my heart. Your welcome. I like you, but you have already admitted a number of times that you have no interest in philosophy and never get what I mean. So why scoff?)

    Why can’t you respect me? I am highly logical (most of the time). You may not emotionally identify with sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfish; but the hidden root of their existence is identical with ours. That is my premise. I ‘believe’ in homogeneity.



    Report abuse

  • Dan, there wasn’t a hint of physicality in my account. Any tale involving information is at root about energy, of course, but you seem to rebel at the jello. My account was jello free.

    I thrill to physics and all life shares the unique property of topical entropic reversal speeding us better to the heat death of the universe. But that the complexity that it generates out of the solar flux eventually yields cuddles and play, peace and delight, bonds me with just about every mammal in a way that the second law of thermodynamics never can.



    Report abuse

  • I need to correct myself. I asked the question: what can be known about that which is not physical? I inadvertently presented a straw-man; you have not conceded, as far as I can recall, that anything that IS can be anything other than physical.
    I will rephrase the question: you say we have had glimpses of the thing-in- itself. What kind of knowledge is this and what precisely do you mean by noumenon when you use that term, Phil?



    Report abuse

  • Dan, we’ve done this (noumen) already. We can both go back and re-read the appropriate threads. I have nothing new here…

    I simply wanted to offer a narrative you might find more congenial in the hope we might discover what you think the substrate of the mind is.

    If its not interesting lets move on…



    Report abuse

  • I’m really not being prescriptive here, Dan.

    “the substrate of the mind” then.

    Its a phrase offered to ridicule or use as you see fit. (It summons the idea of the brain as the substrate of the mind, which you keenly oppose and which wording I think far too restrictive.)

    I think it unfair of you to pass rejecting other people’s views but not stating your own.



    Report abuse

  • “The mind” is a fine expression, a fine concept, and is also a mere figure of speech. There is, finally, the brain and the brain only. I have no illusions or fantasies about the mind. (And I am not contradicting myself.)

    Please see my last comment about OCD and medical treatment on the Building a Better thread. There was no contradiction there either.



    Report abuse

  • Dan,

    There is, finally, the brain and the brain only. I have no illusions or fantasies about the mind. (And I am not contradicting myself.)

    Wow. You are far more extreme than I….

    …or you are teasing…



    Report abuse

  • A relationship between a fit and healthy body and a healthy mind, have been anecdotally recognised for a long time – but now there is evidence!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36975089

    The brains of overweight people look “10 years older” than those of leaner peers, a study has found.

    Brains naturally lose white matter – the part of the brain that transmits information – as people age.

    But a Cambridge University team found that loss was exacerbated with extra weight – so an overweight 50-year-old had a lean 60-year-old’s brain.

    Researchers said it shows we need to know relatively more about how extra weight affects the brain.

    The team, from the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience, looked at the brains of 473 people aged between 20 and 87, dividing them into lean and overweight categories.

    Their findings, published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, found significant differences in the volume of white matter in the brains of overweight people compared with leaner individuals.

    Those in the overweight group had much less white matter than their thinner counterparts.

    The difference was only evident from middle-age onwards, suggesting that our brains may be particularly vulnerable during this period of ageing.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.