The Brain, From Atom to Soul
William E. Stevens
12/27/2008 7:02:14 PM
Yesterday I submitted a comment where essentially I lamented what I thought was in the book The Brain, from Atom and Soul, namely that mind/body, soul/body dualism is a concept still held by some neurologists. The reviewer Lewis P. Rowland, indicated that the author of The Brain, from Atom to Soul, Adam Zeman, referenced Wilder Penfield who "demonstrated by brain stimulation in the course of epilepsy surgery that thoughts arise in the brain. Yet even he became a dualist, describing a sould separate from the flesh."
I should have searched for biographical information of Penfied, but instead simply assumed that he was an active neurologist/neurosurgeon. Subsequently I have done some searching, but have not discovered much more than the fact that Penfield lived from 1891 to 1976. Given that he lived until 1976 It is surprising to me than he, Penfield, became a dualist. Thus my search for his biography. I wonder if he held strong religious beliefs.
A person can reject new ideas because of strong bliefs in areas other than religion, but religious beliefs, as Zeman noted, can be a strong influence on scientific positions. Scientists can hold on to theories, perhaps especially ones they created, that have become discredited. Fred Hoyle, the cosmologist, could not/would not give up his steady state theory concerning the universe; and coined the term "Big Bang" as a derisive term for the theory that the universe started with a gigantic explosion leading to an expanding universe. I think it is obvious that that phenomena is rather universal. It happened to Einstein. I happens to people in all fields of endeavor.
William E. Stevens
12/27/2008 7:00:29 PM
I am a layperson; who has been a subscriber of Cerebrum for a fair number of years and has read books on consciousness. I have a question and some comments. First the question: If consciousness is not a scientific term and lacks a technical definition; then what is the scientific term for what I will call awareness?
My comment is that I am surprised that mind/body (soul/body) dualism is apparently still alive and well among neuroscientists. I am reminded of the article "Neuroscience and the Soul: The Dualism off John Carew Eccles" J. Allan Hobson author, Cerebrum Spring 2004. In that article Hobson wrote: "This article examines how Eccles dualism influenced his thinking about the brain and suggests that the conflict between brain science and dualism may become more acute as progress is made in this still difficult area of research," and "From the 1920s through [the] 1960s, when Eccles performed his remarkable research on the biology of nerve cells, other scientists made long strides in understanding the neurophysiology of mind. Their discoveries would eventually confront Eccles with uncomfortable evidence of the brain basis of consciousness—evidence that Eccles would ignore or reject despite his avowed interest in that topic." and "We know that Eccles believed in psychokinesis and, as a practicing Roman Catholic, certainly believed in mystery and miracles." From the "Contributors" section of that issue of Cerebrum, one finds that Hobson M.D. "is professor of psychiatry and director of the laboratory of neurophysiology at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. I believe his specialties concern sleeping, dreaming, and consciousness.
From where I stand, I have to ask: When will the controversy end?