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>Or does consciousness exist independent of the brain, interacting with it or operating through it, much in the way that a TV signal exists separately from the TV set that receives it?<
Isn't this the same thing that some call the soul?

Excellent post, Michael!

I highly recommend Mark Leary's "Curse of the Self" (admittedly a whimsical title) and then point to more recent research on mirror cells and the role of the late-evolved pre-frontal lobes as monitored with MRI. Indeed, when you speak of 'brain' it is a misleading as to say that England is rural, therefore the London Tube must be spiritual. The brain is not one unified glob, it is a system of interacting globs, and current evidence appears to be returning us to the ancient idea of that "third eye", the Knowing Unspeakable that sees "our" every action and thought, only dig this: what if the "our" is our pre-frontal mirror-cell puppetstage where we play out concepts like 'me', 'them' and especially 'what if?' and the Knower is the rest of the brain always on, always taking in inputs, associating them, giving back outputs.

Ask yourself this: why else would we ask ourselves questions? If we know the answer, then we know the answer, there is no need to ask but you do, so do I. Why? I propose that the we-the-puppeteer 'ask' the great abyss of the pre-primate brain by posing our puppet in its stage. The greater, naturally structured and innocent pre-primate brain mulls it over, runs the massively parallel multidimensional lookup, then 'adjusts' our puppet model and stage whick pre-frontal 'we' then read back as our answer of "did it work? or did it not?"

but dig this also: pre-primate innocent all-seeing always on main-brain does not judge inputs or filter them, it takes it all in, and associates everything with everthing else that comes in. Think for a moment of the implications: If you think "I hate anchovies" the Brain-I hears that, files it away linking 'hate' to 'anchovy' to 'I' and then next time 'anchovy' arises, Brain-I says "Oh, and remember, you hate anchovies" and the puppet master says "oh, yes, I do hate anchovies" and guess what ... Brain I saw that input too, and so it builds, so it layers the associations on meta-associations on meta-associations and lo, we literally think our way into a binding prejudice! Is this the origin of 'race' hatred and other bigotries? Is this why talk-therapy fails so badly? Is this why relationship counselling often makes things go worse? Is this why nearly all the great religions advise adepts to 'pure thought' and diligently practice ritual and meditation specifically designed to quell judgemental self-chatter?

Interesting questions, don't you think?

I don't think it's unreasonable to at least postulate that free will is an illusion, or, as Libet contended, more of a long-range, planning factor.

For example, there have been a series of experiments where subjects were asked to choose to press either a button on their left, or a button on their right. (A rough example, there's been more than one, but that's the basic concept, a binary choice.) By stimulating the brains of the subjects with a magnetic field, scientists managed to influence something like 70% of subjects into choosing one button over the other.

The most interesting part is that the subjects were certain that they made that choice of their own free will.

T.B.,

Do you have the sourcing on that experiment?

>If you think "I hate anchovies" the Brain-I hears that, files it away linking 'hate' to 'anchovy' to 'I' and then next time 'anchovy' arises, Brain-I says "Oh, and remember, you hate anchovies" and the puppet master says "oh, yes, I do hate anchovies"

But presumably the thought "I hate anchovies" arose in the first place because you ate some anchovies and hated them. So all Brain-I is doing is reminding you of something that's true, right? The thought isn't baseless.

>Ask yourself this: why else would we ask ourselves questions? If we know the answer, then we know the answer, there is no need to ask but you do, so do I.

I can think of two reasons why I ask myself questions: 1) to provoke an answer from my subconscious (admittedly a vague term and concept); and 2) to focus my thinking as I try to work out a solution (because otherwise my thoughts may wander off track).

I searched on wikpedia about the free will experiment, and although I know wikpedia is a poor source of info, this particular article was well cited. The wikpedia article stated that the researcher, Limbert I think, may check that though, did not rule out free will. Instead, he found evidence that is was consciousness that gave the final stamp of approval. If this is true, then why so proponents of determinism throw out the original researchers interpretations. Besides, if the article is true, then their was an 80% change affect even when the participants still thought they were acting under free will. This number is well below the standard of statistical benchmark of 95-99%. Of course many psi experiments prove well above or nicely in this range and still are dismissed out of hand.

However, this experiment, if true only backs up my personal feelings regarding free will. For the past years as a college student, I wrote many small term papers regarding free will and have come to believe in limited free will. Creatures with less brain capacity may have much less free will. But what does this mean if true? I think that it makes a great deal of sense if consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and perhaps a drive of evolution, then the brain as a conduit is even more plausible. I just don't think that we are anywhere close to the evolutionary degree to experience the whole of "cosmic consciousness" or what ever in our day to day lives or brain states. Stanislav Grof's research has opened a lot of doors to my personal thoughts and reflections about such things. Anyways. Sorry for the hurried post, just wanted to add a brief thought to a subject that needs years of contemplation. Hope everyone reading this is doing well.

Jb

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