The cardinal error of modern neuroscience – or more often, naive consumers of modern neuroscience – is its implicit belief that brain mapping will eventually allow it to identify the source of consciousness in the brain.
The hushed, embarrassed waiting room. The slowly opened double doors. The thick, deep leather chairs facing one another. The neatly appointed desk with just one or two small flourishes of personality – a blue mug, a talisman from Kathmandu. The nondescript prints on the walls hinting at some lost form of hidden wealth. And the reflective, pensive, furrowed, careful brow, listening, listening, listening.
The moon is dead and the sun is dead and the void of outer space is dead; the air is dead and the water is dead and the rocks and sand and dirt are dead. The mountains are dead. Which is to say, they are not alive. And more subtly, is to say that they don’t feel anything. They are dead to the world. They have no inner experience. They have no consciousness.
Big Bang Consciousness is the party line of modern neuroscience. It is the party line of modern medicine. It is the party line of our legal system – it’s why turning off life support when someone is brain dead is legal, but turning off life support when someone is kidney dead (but their brain is working well) is murder. It is the party line of the modern western world. Big Bang Consciousness says that consciousness pops into existence when you arrange the atoms of the universe in just-the-right-way. But it has to be perfect. You have to arrange them just right. Which is to say, you have to arrange them into a brain.
What the modern secular humanist regards as the sufficiency of scientific knowledge – that everything worth knowing can be known through empirical discovery, and that once God is dead the battle between faith and reason is transcended – is a lousy myth. Faith is not confined to religious belief only; as it turns out, it is not possible to observe the world without thinking thoughts that are impossible to observe. Even secular humanists must have faith – which is to say, non-empirical or metaphysical beliefs. It is just that theirs are not in God. Or, put in terms of the neuroself framework, every neuron has a membrane potential before it has an action potential – and the membrane potential is not determined by observation.
The list below is therefore a record only of what I found indispensable for the development of my own ideas. Therefore it will be useful primarily to readers who are either so interested in, repulsed by, or indifferent to my thoughts that they wish to replicate portions of my intellectual travels in an effort to see whether their own will or will not be led to similar conclusions.
Last night President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was dead. And this morning we heard that the Navy SEALs and CIA commandos who killed him had shot him in the head, just above his eye, which is to say, the orbitofrontal cortex (orbit refers to the socket holding the eye, frontal means frontal. The orbitofrontal cortex, which plays a key role in emotion regulation and decision making, is thus the “front part of the brain over the eye.”) Which raises a question for all of us marveling at how well this mission resolved itself: how, with all the sound and fury unfolding around them, in an environment they had never been in before – in the dark, in a suburb of Pakistan, against a target doubtless eager to avoid injury, and with the awesome weight on his shoulders of of taking perhaps the most important single shot in American history since 1776 – the Navy SEAL who shot him stayed so focused as to take a perfect shot?
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You’re looking at a huge habit network – Federer isn’t thinking consciously that he wants to make all of these movements, they are happening to him. In the brain, habits are called ‘central pattern generators’ or CPGs, for short, and are stored in the basal ganglia.
The neuroscience, and neuroself, behind a President’s roving eye