Friday, August 04, 2006

Just some concepts that ran through my mind on the drive up from Tucson to Phoenix with my sister, where I'll be spending Shabbat with her, her fiance (my friend), and his family.

Everything humanity creates is in its own image. Two good examples are cars and computers. We make cars in the image of our bodies; the parts and liquids in the car are parallels to our organs and the fluids in our body, which the organs need to function, or to function well. A car's body is very much like the human body, which is probably why it's called a "body." Since the human body is so universal to humanity, and we have a hard time thinking outside the norm of the body (and don't need really), we create cars (and other things) in our image.

This goes for computers are well, which are fashioned after our brains. A computer, like a human brain, is able to store, retrieve, recollect, and recognize information. It's no wonder that we began to make the computer only once we started to understand how the human brain functions.

The real question is how we explain the mind, which is associated with but not entirely inseparable from the brain, for if the brain and mind were totally connected to each other then by simply making a brain we would also happen to be making a mind. But the reality of the matter is that we have not created a mind, i.e., a consciousness, by creating and attaching the physical parts that make up a computer. Granted, a computer has a sort of "consciousness" if we consider that we give it commands, which it recognizes and then follows. However, this is merely rule-following, and it is the same set of rule-following that causes a rock to break when you smash it against the ground, yet can we say that just because the rock is following rules (of physics) that it possesses a consciousness? If it had a consciousness then we would be forced to conclude that we could throw a rock against the ground and in the event the rock did not want to follow the rules (of physics) that it could fight against the rules and keep itself from breaking completely, or if it was an experienced rock it could keep itself from breaking altogether. If a rock had consciousness it could resist the rules. However since this is not the case we know that simple rule-following is not indicative whatsoever of consciousness, and therefore we must conclude that there is more to a mind than intelligence. What this means is that there is much more to creating a mind than creating a functioning, thinking brain (which is what a computer is).

When we turn this question to ourselves, we are forced to ponder the existence of our own consciousness. We have a brain, that is clear, but does the existence of a brain necessitate the existence of our mind, i.e., our consciousness? Like I demonstrated, a brain, like the computer created in its image, has no consciousness and simply follows a set of rules, although in the brain's case the rules are much more intricate and complex. This is moot though, a brain does what it is "told to do." If you pick up a hot potatoe your brain will tell your hand to move your fingers so that you drop it. This happens against your will, and in reality without the knowledge of your will; it happens before your mind, your consciousness, has processed the event. What this means is that your brain is acting without your mind and that your mind and your brain are seperate entities.

To demonstrate it more simply, if you removed a brain from a head, it would clearly not have a consciousness of its own; it would be reduced to a fleshy organ not much different than a liver or a piece of muscle, incapable of functioning outside of its attachment to the rest of the body. It just so happens that the brain is the organ upon which all other organs rely on for functioning, but in the end it too is just a piece of meat. The most amazing thing about the brain is that it is a piece of meat able to hold information. Nevertheless, in all its amazing ability, and it is truly amazing, the brain cannot explain the human consciousness. It might be possible that the brain's ability to place a person in a three dimensional setting, i.e., situates the person in the world, is not much different from its ability to make fingers drop a hot potatoe; both are indications that the brain recognizes external stimuli.

But even if we were to concede this, the brain's functioning cannot account for the notion of the meaning of self. It also can't account for philosophy or thoughts about the world external to the external world (the spiritual world), unless of course we assume that the world external to the external world, i.e., the spiritual world, is a world that affects the human being as much as or more than the physical world. Since the reality of the self is almost like navigating a terrain, we have to wonder how it is the brain that is able to, through the sum of its parts, create an identity, a mind. Try to locate your mind; where in you is your mind? Is it in your head, your brain? Or maybe your heart, or a different organ in the body? If you look around enough you'll realize that your mind is not located anywhere specific in your body, but rather, you are your mind.

The spiritual world is a reality that affects the human being in a relevant way, the brain actually contains an area designed to be receptive to activity in that external area, and that "section" of the brain is the mind.

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