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You Are your Brain

April 28th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

If you have the time, watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EREriwV71mA
In this video lecture, David Eagleman, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, very persuasively and convincingly asserts that you are nothing more than your brain in this prodigiously fascinating and profound clip. Note: the video is 35 minutes long but it is definitely worth watching.
Can you possibly imagine the repercussions if in fact we are indeed nothing more than our brain? I know right from wrong and am a law-abiding citizen but what if I suffered from a brain injury that consequently affected my behavior and actually changed me as a person. I fall and hit my head, suffer a serious brain injury and now I become impulsive and cannot stop stealing, gambling and beating up my wife.  It may sound outrageous but there are in fact reams of documented cases, which suggest this assertion.
If I am nothing more than my brain, then it makes sense that I am not responsible for my actions. If the aforementioned scenario in which I hit my head actually occurred, then I have no freewill and I steal, gamble, and beat my wife because I have brain damage.  It is not me, it is my brain.
Neuroscience is in its infancy and we are many decades away from even grasping fully what the brain or the “mind” is. We probably will never completely understand all of the workings of our mind but we are indeed making strides and it is exciting and fascinating but at the same time frightening. The thought of not having any freewill and being a mere puppet orchestrated by your brain is prodigiously profound.  It seems like we have freewill, but do we?
Our whole judicial system would have to be revamped. However, on a positive note the notion of rehabilitation would actually mean something. (Hypothetically, that is diagnosing an aberration, in addition to actually rectifying the affliction. Diagnosis and treatment are two very different things however as the cliché – know….is half the battle.)
We would not only have to change our laws but we would indeed have to modify our whole way of assessing people. The monotheistic religions, which rely heavily on choice, freewill, and personal responsibility, would be obsolete. We certainly would be more understanding, perhaps maybe even kinder, and more forgiving to our fellow man. “To understand all is to forgive all.”
I, personally can’t think of anything more fascinating and interesting than neuroscience and the discipline of studying and figuring out how this convoluted mass of gray matter that looks like cauliflower actually works. It is after all who we are. On the other hand, is it?
Now it is your turn WHADAWETHINK ? Do you believe you are your brain? Do you believe in freewill? Are you afraid of the ethics and consequences of knowing too much? Hypothetical scenario – Joe Smith is a Kleptomaniac, not unlike the diagnosis of a broken arm, the neurosurgeon opens up your cranium and readjusts some gray matter so his dendrites fire differently and the dopamine (reward system) level is reduced  and Joe is all better, no longer steals and becomes a productive member of society. How about the more serious crimes like rape and murder, What do we do then?
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