The View From 1776
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Mirror, Mirror On The Wall
Darwinian secularists may gaze self-admiringly into the mirror, as did Snow White’s wicked step-mother, but the answer still is bad news. However much they project their minds as the creators of all intelligence, God will remain the fairest of all.
For a century and a half, secularists have labored to discredit the age-old perception that our universe and we in it are the creations of an omnipotent Divine Mind outside the universe and ante-dating it.
Every effort to explain the origin of life itself as a purely materialistic, chance phenomenon has come a cropper. Ditto repeated attempts to demonstrate that highly organized DNA and RNA in the simplest known life forms, intricately balanced systems for controlling cell growth and self reproduction, could have occurred by chance from purely materialistic conditions. Ditto the effort to discredit the universal experience of the human soul as something outside the physical nature of the brain.
The following book review from the Wall Street Journal deals with yet another feckless attempt to exalt the human mind over the Mind of God.
The Mind in the Mirror
Neuroscience can explain many brain functions, but not the mystery of consciousness
By RAYMOND TALLIS
The subtitle of V.S. Ramachandran’s latest book prompts a question: Why should “A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human” be of particular interest? The answer is obvious if you believe, as so many do, that humans are essentially their brains. When a brain scientist speaks, we should pay attention, for “What makes us human” then boils down to what makes our brains special, compared with those of other highly evolved creatures.
The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human
By V.S. Ramachandran ?(Norton, 384 pages, $16.95)
Dr. Ramachandran and many others, including prominent philosophers like Daniel Dennett and Patricia and Paul Churchland, promise that neuroscience will help us understand not only the mechanism of brain functions (such as those that coordinate movement or underpin speech) but also key features of human consciousness. As of yet, though, we have no neural explanation of even the most basic properties of consciousness, such as the unity of self, how it is rooted in an explicit past and explicit future, how experience is owned and referred to a self, and how we are, or feel that we are, voluntary agents. Neuroscience, in short, has no way of accommodating everyday first-person being.
Dr. Ramachandran first came to international prominence for his fascinating work on visual illusions and on amputees with phantom-limb sensations, described in his BBC Reith Lectures “The Emerging Mind.” The present book summarizes his research and purports to advance our understanding of how we humans come to be so profoundly different from our nearest animal kin. He approaches this quest indirectly, however, through the investigation of some extraordinary patients. We meet Victor, an amputee who experiences sensations in his missing hand when his face is touched; Steven, a 6-year-old autistic boy with an astonishing capacity for drawing; and Ali, whose self-awareness is so profoundly disturbed that he believes he has ceased to exist. People with synaesthesia