Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Dualism

Taken from an apologist blog, arguing whether the mind can exist without the body. I don't think context is all that necessary, I just wanted to capture some of the things I said, and anyone who thinks that the mind isn't dependent upon the brain, or that the mind can survive the death of the brain, can feel free to comment
"The mind uses the brain to operate the body, so obviously there would be correlations," you said. That doesn't address anything. Someone who has frontal lobe damage isn't trapped behind their eyes, railing against behaviors they can no longer control. Their inner life is changed. Their thoughts are changed. Their "mind" is altered.

You have no explanation for how this supposedly disembodied mind uses the brain to control the body. How does it interface with neurons? How does it carry memory? How does it regulate its emotions? Scientists have predicted with quite good accuracy (and this should be relevant to you) how closely a mother will hold her infant, how often she will check on it during the night, the amount of time she will spend gazing at it, all by measuring levels of neurotransmitters. Does a mother's "mind" hover inside her skull, saying "a little more oxytocin there, I think"?

Your explanation also doesn't address the deficits of those born with brain impairment. Mental retardation, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Down's Syndrome. One of my relatives has Prader-Willi Syndrome, which is all of the above rolled into one.

How smart will she be once she has shuffled off this mortal coil, with its 63 IQ brain?

What will her personality be, never having read a novel, fallen in love, fought for something she believes in?

What will her interests be when she is no longer compelled to sort and resort playing cards for hours, when Spongebob and Dora no longer hold her attention?

What will her desires be when she is no longer driven to eat and eat until it literally kills her?

You have no answers to these other than your own intuitive sense of cognition and a little doggerel "logic." The simplest explanation that fits the facts isn't necessarily always correct, but it would be nice for an explanation to fit *any* of the facts if we want to consider that it is, in a word, possible.
While the tone here is quite confrontational, many of these questions have been troubling me, ever since it got back to me that her mother took solace from her belief that in the next life, her daughter might be free of all that, and that (as is possible within her Mormon theology) her daughter might fall in love, marry, and have children. It is heartwrenching to me to that comfort could be had from from a belief that makes the situation so much more tragic.

She is more than just the deficits of her condition. She is a beautiful, loving person who is thriving and learning and growing as best she can. But it is unthinkable to me to imagine that there is a "normal" person trapped inside, suffering all the more.