Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Mind of One's Own

By Raymond Tallis, clinical neuroscientist

The word is out that human consciousness - from the most elementary tingle of sensation to the most sophisticated sense of self - is identical with neural activity in the human brain and that this extraordinary metaphysical discovery is underpinned by the latest findings in neuroscience...

These beliefs are based on elementary errors. Just because neural activity is a necessary condition of consciousness, it does not follow that it is a sufficient condition of consciousness, still less that it is identical with it. And Darwinising human life confuses the organism Homo sapiens with the human person, biological roots with cultural leaves. Nevertheless, the coupling of neuromania and Darwinitis has given birth to emerging disciplines based on neuro-evolutionary approaches to human psychology, economics, social science, literary criticism, aesthetics, theology and the law.

These pseudo-disciplines are flourishing in academe and are covered extensively in the popular press, in articles usually accompanied by a brain scan (described by the writer Matt Crawford as a "fast-acting solvent of critical faculties"). Only last month, David Brooks asserted in the New Yorker that "brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy"...

The evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has argued that we should "connect the world of evolutionary science with that of public policy formation". Professors Semir Zeki and Oliver Goodenough anticipate a "millennial future, perhaps only decades away" when "a good knowledge of the brain's system of justice and of how the brain reacts to conflicts may provide critical tools in resolving international political and economic conflicts". Untidy decision-making processes in the law courts will be replaced by a "biological justice" that can link actions with the neural activity that drove them as well as the biological bases of that activity. is premature to appeal to neuroscience and evolutionary theory to advance our understanding of human life or drive social policy. And, pace David Brooks, "the atrophy of philosophy" is something that should concern us, rather than make us celebrate...Read it all

Arguably We All Have Brains, But Hearts?

It's debatable. "As part of his work on the effects of foreclosures in America, Bruce Gilden traveled to Detroit, Michigan [though foreclosures in astonishing numbers happened have been ongoing all over the country). What he found was a desolate landscape where the subprime mortgage crisis is the latest blow hitting the "troubled city" already on its way to collapse and insurrection".

Photo by Bruce GildenGilden, with many others, notes that a lot of home [Home!] foreclosures, like in Detroit, were based on predatory lending and other deceptive schemes designed to lure the vulnerable with false, lying promises. As you will see in the following brief documentary, many of the poor have their own conspiracy theories about what happened. Many think it was a new form of brutal gentrification, clearing the way for land grabs, city "restructuring," to God knows what ends. And their interpretations are difficult to refute. Meanwhile Fox News and the other corporate media stoke race strife by suggesting [as always, remember the the "dirty" 19th century Irish, good only for the 'Patty' wagon?] it's "their own fault" for buying a home "they could not afford"...See the documentary.

--->U.S. Home Foreclosures Was Expected to Top 100,000 In January...

--->HSBC suspends foreclosures in the U.S. The regulators issued letters noting "certain deficiencies" [Yes?] in the processing, preparation and signing of affidavits and "other documents supporting foreclosures" at HSBC Finance and HSBC Bank USA, the London-based lender said in its annual report..."We have suspended foreclosures until such time as we have substantially addressed noted deficiencies in our processes," HSBC said in the report...

--->Financial penalties extracted from large banks over their mortgage servicing practices may ("I think it is possible") be used for loan modifications, a top Obama administration official said on Monday... [Will there be justice for all the victims or only some?)

Photo by Bruce Gilden--->Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices in Foreclosures. Calling the banks to account...; ...More, JP Morgan... Wells Fargo...They say they "erred" in "some" cases. Imagine.

--->Matt Taibbi: Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them...

Take away a family's home and you shake them to their existential cores. Do the numbers crunchers even consider?

--->Libya unrest: Rebels fight off Gaddafi attack...

--->Court says Illinois student has right to wear "Be Happy, Not Gay" shirt...(click) [There is hope for justice and free speech yet if this kind of evenhandedness spreads through the courts]

--->Supreme Court: 1st Amendment protects military funeral nasty sect...(Click) [Despicable sect, but again it shows free seech, thankfully, is not dead]

--->Looking to 2012, an uncertain future for social conservatives---By Russell Shaw (Click) [I'm no fan of Santorum's record relative to 'our' planetary wars; though we hope social conservatives will prevail on abortion, even as we seek to move them to anti-imperial positions; it's another reason I think political Independents must increase]

--->Sick to death of excuses for war: Poll: Most Americans Strongly Oppose U.S. Intervention in Arab Countries...

--->Proposed federal budget cuts could have 'drastic' impact on poor...

--->Rebels, Gaddafi Forces Battle Over Libyan Oil Port...; oil prices jump to 2 1/2 yr high.

Afghan boys, file photo--->Horror Show: NATO Apologizes For Attack-Helicopter Killing of 9 Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood... [Apologies cost little]

--->Pakistani Minister For Minorities Killed In Gun Attack In Islamabad...

--->Revisited: German Government Publication Promotes Incestuous Pedophilia as Healthy Sex Ed...

--->European Court Could Rule Traditional Marriage Benefits Are

--->"Schools need to teach about orgasms" says NEA to UN... [Imagine the mentality of these decadent knuckle draggers] “Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education" [Are they indifferent to dying (click) young people?]

--->Pope in his new book (Click) affirms again that only the Temple Leaders and supporters at the time were responsible for the death of Christ, by no means all Jews then or now... [Nothing appears new here, Cf. Nostra Aetate No.4; the book is non-magisterial in any case --only a private theological contribution, so could not contradict the magisterium with binding authority as some news reports in ignorance of Catholic teaching act like it has; only magisterial documents bind Catholics]

--->"Underground movement" [of persecution]: "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" coming to Fresno again thanks to efforts of two [elderly] women and a homosexual priest [ousted by the Church] who back women’s ordination. An anti-Catholic film, portions of "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" was first shown to students at Convent of the Sac_ed He_rt High School in San Francisco on Feb. 18; produced and directed by Jules Hart (More on her here) and distributed by her Eye Goddess Films...More

A poet writes, "Carthage is ... on fire — "burning, burning, burning, burning", to quote TS Eliot — but not Civitas Dei. I am full of the darkest forebodings about the future. Yeats' poem The Second Coming (click) sums up what lie ahead of us: a bottomless abyss of depravity and nihilism ["And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"]. In the end, however, things will work out well. "And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well...(TS Eliot again)"

Cardinal Ratzinger (today Benedict XVI): "The central problem of our time is the emptying-out of the historical figure of Jesus. It begins with denying the virgin birth, then the resurrection becomes a spiritual event, then Christ's awareness of being the Son of God is denied, leaving him only the words of a rabbi. Then the Eucharist falls, and becomes just a farewell dinner."

"If at times it may be just to tolerate a lesser evil for the sake of peace in the church, let us not forget that a peace paid for with the loss of the truth would be a false peace, an empty peace" ---October 6, 2001

Note: At the very bottom of each page click "Older Posts" in order to view previous recent posts. Reminder: Print out what you find helpful while you can.


  1. Resolving conflicts is a heart thing, not an organic system thing. The "critical tool" is charity based on not being one's own god. Proposing that neural activity is identical to sufficient consciousness seems to me a little like saying Zionism is identical to the Jewish religion.

    Secular social justice whether based on science or philosophy is always this: A humanly well-meant choice for Godlessness. That was utterly deadly in Eden, and it resulted in Jesus' question to His disciples when some could not allow Him His sanctifying and saving mysteries, "Will you also go away?" Or as Chesterton the Brilliant puts it in your side panel, "A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice." Indeed, this new philosophy is as old as the serpent himself.

    One more thing we can thank the Catholic Church for: her theology never atrophies! It is evergreen.

    (Gosh, imagine being named "Goodenough".. and imagine someone making me think in the morning--it's unheard of cruelty.)

  2. As for schools teaching about orgasm, it is highly unlikely they'd ever teach what it really is. Without God's seal of approval on it via the sacrament of holy matrimony or at least one man's and one woman's exclusively mutual commitment to each other for life, it becomes a nearly indelible tattoo from satan the defiler of God's plans, left on the flesh, which only the God of genuine love can transform or if need be, erase. It is precisely that brief but lifelong low tattoo which gets African (and other) girls and women genitally mutilated. Unmatrimonial - or at any rate, unholy orgasm is even more than tattoo for men-- it quickly has the potential to become an addiction that ensnares boys and men globally in sin. What our priests could tell us, if only they could tell us.

    Most everything one reads at the checkouts has nothing to do with real life, OR real sex. (If female monkeys could opine, they'd be on the cover of Cosmo et al instead.) Or, we must never make orgasm a goal. That is not the goal!! True intimacy is, and at times, co-creating with the Lord. There is a world of difference. I wish you'd write about all this in depth, Stephen.