The Brain is Part of our Biology

David Brooks (“The brain has a mind of its own,” Albany Times Union, June 19) offers up his reaction to what is going on in the field of neuroscience, decrying the supposed claim that the brain is the mind. It’s a straw man: Mr. Brooks names nobody who says that.

A basic tenet of science is that phenomena should be investigated without reference to the supernatural. With the right equipment, neuroscientists can tell with some precision whether a human subject is going to press one or the other of two buttons before that subject is aware of which one it is. This observation indicates that a lot of brain activity goes on without our being aware of it. This should not be very surprising. New ideas fly into our heads; we eat chocolate ice cream but sometimes switch to, say, cherry. Why? We don’t know.

Scientists consider the brain an integrated biological system, in which the laws of physics and chemistry are not violated. Our feeling of being a witness to our lives must arise from the activities of the brain and nervous system, in ways that neuroscientists are working hard to understand. They are not making unfounded claims; otherwise they would not get their papers accepted in peer-reviewed journals.

 

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