Friday, May 19, 2006

Dissecting our brain

Dr. Massimo Pigliucci has a wonderful synopsis of the fascinating workings of the brain as unveiled to us by Cordelia Fine.

Two findings struck me. Vis-a-vis the finger-tapping experiment, the fact that the process of deciding to move the finger began as an unconscious twitch so to speak and only a fraction of a second later became a conscious decision to move the finger is a blow to the idea of (contra-causal) free will. If something is done out of free will then it must be conscious from the start--it should not be caused by something else, and certainly not by something nonsentient and primitive as brain cells. If the decision had started out unconsciously then it can't be "free." Well, from the Libet experiment there is definitely something biological/organic going on even before we consciously decide to move our fingers. Neurons begin firing which then causes us to consciously think/decide. Tom Clark of the Center for Naturalism will probably love this study.

Second, the experiment with the deck of cards brings to mind a recent European experiment. But darn I can't remember what exactly it was about! I vaguely recall it was something about deciding intuitively which is the better car(?). Bottom line of the study was--if my dendrites aren't all in a hopeless tangle--such shoot-from-the-hip non-analytical decision leads to a higher probability of success. These are interesting results. I'm sure the woowoo crowd would love one possible implication--humans have some form of ESP.

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