Home » Mind, Neuroscience, News » What if you begin to believe, due to neuroscience, that there is no “me” left?

What if you begin to believe, due to neuroscience, that there is no “me” left?

From Sharon Begley, co-author of The Mind and the Brain,

It was found that neurological explanations are more likely than psychological ones to make volunteers say the perpetrator was not to blame. The exception is that people really, really resist excusing a loathsome act such as violence or pedophilia by invoking brain chemistry. That, scholars suspect, is because although we’ve all seen the authoritative-looking brain maps that label the frontal cortex as the site of the executive functions, and the limbic system as the seat of emotions, and so on, most of us hold tight to the idea that there is something else in there that doesn’t appear on the map: a “me.”

The “me” is what English philosopher Gilbert Ryle derisively called “the ghost in the machine,” an entity that somehow stands apart from the messy physicality of the brain and, being disembodied, is more powerful than whatever the brain puts out. That “me” is the ultimate decider, the observer, the entity that can look at the overactivity in the anterior cingulate gyrus that causes obsessive-compulsive disorder and say, Quiet down! Or see the dearth of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (site of impulse control) right before we do something rash and bark out, Step it up! Shaun Nichols, a philosopher at the University of Arizona, argues that as long as we believe in a “me” standing apart from the brain that scientists are mapping, we “reject the idea that decisions are produced by deterministic mechanisms and processes.” In answer to the question posed by the title of a 2007 book, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?, we say no.

She now thinks that won’t last though. As brain-based explanations dominate, few will continue to believe in the “me” that decides how much attention to focus on which processes are occurring in the brain or how to respond.

Note: Here Begley offers a critical look at evolutionary psychology. And here, a critical look at whether or why they believe all that rot.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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13 Responses to What if you begin to believe, due to neuroscience, that there is no “me” left?

  1. Of related note: “me” proves elusive to locate:

    Self-awareness in humans is more complex, diffuse than previously thought – August 22, 2012
    Excerpt: Self-awareness is defined as being aware of oneself, including one’s traits, feelings, and behaviors. Neuroscientists have believed that three brain regions are critical for self-awareness: the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex. However, a research team led by the University of Iowa has challenged this theory by showing that self-awareness is more a product of a diffuse patchwork of pathways in the brain – including other regions – rather than confined to specific areas. The conclusions came from a rare opportunity to study a person with extensive brain damage to the three regions believed critical for self-awareness. The person, a 57-year-old, college-educated man known as “Patient R,” passed all standard tests of self-awareness. He also displayed repeated self-recognition, both when looking in the mirror and when identifying himself in unaltered photographs taken during all periods of his life. “What this research clearly shows is that self-awareness corresponds to a brain process that cannot be localized to a single region of the brain,”,,,
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....ously.html

    Which agrees with the argument from divisibility:

    Case for the Existence of the Soul – (Argument from Divisibility at 38:20 minute mark) – JP Moreland – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....age#t=2299

    also of related interest:

    Alvin Plantinga and the Modal Argument – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOTn_wRwDE0

  2. OT: Modal Ontological Argument (For God) Alvin Plantinga
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWP1-yi0U38

  3. Sometimes, the “me” is powerless against neurological disorders such as OCD, autism, bipolarism, depression, schizophrenia, stuttering, etc. So, it is not implausible to conclude that behavior is not always entirely controlled by the ghost in the machine.

  4. But the most important point to realize is that nor do such neurological disorders rule out the fact that there is, in fact, a ‘me’ which is not reducible to brain states. A erroneous claim that I have seen materialists try to advance from time to time.

  5. Mapou, you may appreciate this:

    This following video, though the girl in the video was written off as hopelessly retarded by everyone except her loving father, reveals that there is indeed a gentle intelligence, a “me”, within the girl that is/was trapped within her body. And that that “me” was/is unable to express itself properly to others because of her neurological disorder.

    Severely Handicapped Girl Suddenly Expresses Intelligence At Age 11 – very moving video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZVV4Ciccg

    Verse and Music:

    1 Samuel 16:7
    ,,,For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

    Evanescence – My Heart Is Broken – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1QGnq9jUU0

  6. bornagain77 @4,

    The materialists have been lost in the wilderness for quite some time. Their entire worldview is driven by intellectual incest and superstition. Their science is no better than chicken feather voodoo. Anybody who believes that he can gain immortality by copying and uploading the contents of his brain to a machine is hallucinating. Big time. The only way to wake up those lost souls from their self-induced stupor is to hit them hard between the eyes with the two-by-four of a paradigm shift. That will happen soon enough. Wait for it.

    PS. bornagain77, I realize that you and I don’t see eye to eye on certain aspects of the brain and the mind but, as one Christian to another, here is something for you to file away in your database for future reference. The spirit, i.e., the “me” that is in all of us, are the seven lamps or “the seven eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” The whole earth is just a metaphor for memory. See Zechariah (Yahweh remembers), chapter 4. This is the reason that our short-term or working memory holds up to seven items, something that psychologists discovered many decades ago. Cheers.

  7. I am amazed by how erudite and reasonably smart people on UD suddenly exhibit total lose of scientific acumen. We should be aware that if we were to attribute every phenomenon in universe to God, there would be nothing to explain and discover. Science has progressed because a large body of scientists and religious heads didn’t believe so.

  8. Oops read ‘..didn’t believe so as ‘didn’t do so’.

  9. selvaRajan:

    I am amazed by how erudite and reasonably smart people on UD suddenly exhibit total lose of scientific acumen. We should be aware that if we were to attribute every phenomenon in universe to God, there would be nothing to explain and discover. Science has progressed because a large body of scientists and religious heads didn’t [do] so.

    I’ve seen this argument many times before and it’s invariably made by a brain-dead atheist or materialist. It’s really a dumb and stupid thing to say. Sir Isaac Newton believed that the entire universe including all the laws of physics was designed and created by a higher power. Did that prevent him from being one of the greatest scientists that ever lived? Is he called the father of modern physics because he did not think there was anything to discover?

    selvaRajan, you’re pathetic, man. You should apologize to everyone who comments and posts here for insulting our intelligence. I just placed you at the top of my list of people to ignore.

  10. Mapou.
    you make the great error in your list of mental problems.
    They are not problems with our thinking soul/me but only with our memory.
    Thats the only problem. The memory is of the material world but our soul/me is not.

    Indeed the mE must cease to be if we are just wired up brain parts.
    Evolution must finally conclude this. THen put it into action in society.
    We are a ghost/spirit/me and thery can’t beat it.
    They will never finf the MEW on a nerve point or brain wire.

  11. Sir Isaac Newton believed that the entire universe including all the laws of physics was designed and created by a higher power. Did that prevent him from being one of the greatest scientists that ever lived? Is he called the father of modern physics

    I don’t think any of us can compare our self to Sir Isaac Newton.He certainly didn’t draw scientific conclusions based on his religious belief.
    Look at posts here – you will find conclusions like YEC , Brains and spirits interacting, even Sun rise and Setting is being turned into a mystery, short term memory equated to Earth and holding 7 items… and so on.
    When you bring religion into scientific argument, you are bringing in fallacy of circular argument. All I am saying is – be like Sir Isaac Newton- Let the Lord guide your soul, but let science guide your mind.

  12. selvaRajan, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you are a liar. Nobody here equated memory to earth. And it’s a scientific fact that short-term or working memory has a seven item capacity. The point you were making earlier about there being nothing to explain or discover if everything was created by a higher power is a stupid point. Admit it and apologise.

  13. Here it is to you all:
    Science is an artifact of the human mind
    The human mind is an illusion created by the brain
    Science is an illusion created by the brain.
    You can’t study consciousness by arguing for an immaterial impersonal science which does not exist by the same materialist reasoning.
    Curious neurologists never apply the same reasoning to their own endeavor. Publishing bad results is evolutionary advantageous since it allows a researcher to attract more grants. More grants means a researcher’s neurons get rewarded meaning the researcher will have an enforced belief in science.The firing of mirror neurons in the scientists’ brain allows bad results to become the consensus. False memories implanted during so-called “experiments” perpetuate the “delusion” of control, since there is no free will and the researcher responds instinctively to the surroundings.
    Thus there is no science as a distinct entity or as an absolute but a series of evolving conditional responses occurring in the researcher’s brains.

    If consciousness is an illusion, since science is an artifact of consciousness it can only be an illusion. You can’t move the Earth while standing on it.

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