10 The Brain and Neuroscience

It is common nowadays to think along these lines: I had a bad day.. because my brain was out of a certain chemical. Or, I felt a certain way about him.. my brain is wired to make me feel this way. Or, maybe: I see the world in this way.. because my brain is programmed that way.

These commonly held views are not objectionable in every way. There must be some kind of single reference point from which everything else derives, and by reference to which things can be explained. However, it is not the brain which is that reference point.

For instance, consider this: God is an idea inside the brain which can be removed, and which has been inserted by experience while the believer in God was growing up. This is something we might hear these days from the common people, and from the neuroscientist.

There is a trivial answer to this on the part of the believer, of course: the common people and the neuroscientist believe in the brain as the source of ideas because the idea of the brain as the central processing unit of the human being 'is an idea inside the brain which can be removed, and which has been inserted...', etc.

In reply, the neuroscientist would point out that the brain and the rest of it are physical objects which can be examined, while God is not a physical object. The brain being an object is what makes neuroscience into a 'science'.

But this area of study and the fixation on the brain as the central object in which knowledge, consciousness, etc., reside has a subtle paradoxical quality which renders this entire science superficial, and those doing this science essentially dishonest, or at least engaged in superficial studies.

When we speak of finding the seat of consciousness, the source of knowledge or memory, neuroscience has located these intangible 'things' (memory, etc.), inside a physical object. Effectively, we are trying to give a space and time location to a 'thought' or a 'memory'. That is to say, the memory, the idea, the thought, the 'faith' are not real in themselves, because they reside inside a physical object.

I find this strange paradox: this physical object is the true source of ideas, thoughts, consciousness of the world, and so on. It alone is the real fact. And yet, do we not see it so annoying clearly: the brain itself is just one of those objects which we see in the world, with our consciousness of the world. And that, at all times, in every way, the brain itself is simply an effect or result of activity of the brain.

The circularity of this conclusion, and the obviousness of it - to me, at least - drives me up the wall when I hear the radio, see the journals, the newspapers, hear the people talking in this way.

To put it succinctly, what does the brain look like to a neuroscientist when he is engaged in doing neuroscience? If he were to study his own brain while doing his science, would he learn anything new about himself or his knowledge and his ideas? Of course, not; and the whole field has this rotten dishonesty about it, making one wonder whether neuroscience is not merely another metaphysics, and a typical delusion of the kind which human history affords so many examples - or whether it is not more likely a kind of object and matter fetish of the satanic kind, where all spirituality is thrown aside for the fascination with materialism and physical things.

Design Jason Powell, 2020.