Topic: Brain and Behavior


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Serendip's forums sometimes get longer than what can conveniently be accessed and displayed. They are, at the same time, in their entirety an important part of what Serendip has become at any given time (and, of course, particular contributions may well be of lasting significance). To try and balance needs for easy display and those of continuous and permanent record, only this year's forum comments are displayed on this page with earlier comments being preserved elsewhere. To go to the forum for prior years, click on the year below.

Year: - Current postings - 1999/2002 - 1998/1999 - 1997 - 1996


Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject: Spot the spot
Date: Sat Feb 1 19:02:59 EST 1997
Comments:
I got 95% on things I'd seen at speed 1, radius 3, contrast 1. At speed 0, I saw nothing at all, nor at contrast 0.
Name: anonymous
Username: pblion @ AOL
Subject: motor learning
Date: Tue Feb 25 15:25:04 EST 1997
Comments:
question: what is the best way to teach/learn a motor skill like hitting a golf ball?
Name: T.J.Tomasi
Username: PBLION
Subject: motor/skill learning
Date: Wed Feb 26 10:52:54 EST 1997
Comments:
I'm a PGA golf teacher with a Ph.D. in Education -- I'm very interested in how the brain learns a motor skill like golf. Any help, research, books, etc. or just some comments from the experts would be very helpful. thanks TJT
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: motor skill/learning
Date: Sun Mar 2 10:28:50 EST 1997
Comments:
Just happened to have been reading a relevant article ("Motor imagery:never in your wildest dreams", Donald Crammond, Trends in Neuroscience, Volume 20, Number 2, 1997). Its a review of some recent research implying that motor performance can indeed be enhanced by "thinking" about movement (the "imagine what you want to do" sort of thing that I presume many coaches encourage), and exploring the underlying brain mechanisms. It may be a little tough going without some background in neurobiology, but is more readable than many professional articles ... and I don't know of a more popular treatment of this area (but would love to hear about one if anyone else does). Marc Jeannerod, a French neurobiologist, has done a fair amount of work in this area, and has written several semi-popular books on motor control generally. Those, and the obvious websearching, might be additional good places to start trying to find out what is (and isn't) known. Keep me/us posted? Its a very interesting topic.
Name: Sheryl Eddy
Username: sheryl@been-there.com
Subject: scoptopic sensitivity / Irlen syndrome?
Date: March 22 1997
Comments:

I'v just read Tricks of the Eyes, Wisdom of the Brain, its very interesting. Can you explane Scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrom and what causes everything to shake and move around? I know it has something to do with light, but not sure how or why the light causes this effect.

This is a great site, both my son and I are getting quite a kick out of all the things we are learning.
Thanks Sheryl


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: To Sheryl
Date: March 23 1997
Comments:
Delighted to have you around. No, I don't know anything about scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome but it sounds like something I should know about. Mind if I post your note in our Forum area? Or you can, if you like. Happy also to hear more about the syndrome, either there or here
Name: Sheryl Eddy
Username: sheryl@been-there.com
Subject: Irlen syndrome
Date: March 23 1997
Comments:
Sure you can post it. I don't know much about it. My son has it. What he sees wiggles around, words move off the page when he reads. He has to have colored filters in his glasses, but he doesn't see the color when he looks through them, he sees the way we do. It has something to do with the light. If anyone on the forum can explain it I'd love to know how and why this is.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: To Sheryl
Date: March 23 1997
Comments:
You got me thinking, and I want to hear more. Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who whose books are both very interesting and readable without some background in brain function. One called Anthropologist on Mars has a chapter on "The Case of the Color Blind Painter", a man who couldn't see colors after a brain injury. In that case, a likely explanation is a failure to do "normal" compensation for changes in the color of illuminating lights, and there is not only a loss of color sense but an unusual sensitivity to light sources. I wonder whether there might be something comparable in what you are talking about. If "normal" adjustments for light intensity were not being made (for whatever reason), one might be both unusually light sensitive and have trouble stabilizing images (because of illumination variations). Is that the syndrome?
Name: Sheryl Eddy
Username: sheryl@been-there.com
Subject: Irlen
Date: March 23 1997
Comments:

Could be though he isn't color blind. Here is something interesting, they are doing a study in my sons school with the 4th graders' and they are finding out that many of the children who couldn't read and were thought to have dislexia actully have Irlene syndrome. Once they put filters in there glasses or gave them colored overlays to read with their reading improved noticably.

When I find out more I'll let you know. If you find something please let me know.


Name: John Schmidt
Username: schmidt@wsuhub.uc.twsu.edu
Subject: its a yolk, son
Date: Sat Apr 19 08:27:20 EDT 1997
Comments:
"I'm doing a report on the brain for my psychology class if any body wants to share, send it to me e-mail thanks "
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@gezernet.co.il
Subject: Blindness unconsciousness
Date: Wed May 14 18:23:03 EDT 1997
Comments:
I am a hematologist. Several yrs. ago I treated a patient for acute leukemia with CNS involvement. He entered remission with treatment, remaining blind. The amazing thing is that he was unaware of being blind. He would move around bumping against objects, needing restraint. I am not aware of this phenomenon having been previously described. At any rate, it seems clear that activities of the conscious areas of the brain are incredibly complex since there is a constant monitoring of everything that is being perceived; it appears that the lack of the capacity to perceive is part of the monitoring process.
Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject:
Date: Fri May 16 16:31:53 EDT 1997
Comments:

Name: Corc
Username: RCorcoran@mad.scientist.com
Subject: Color "Blindness"
Date: Fri May 30 01:38:50 EDT 1997
Comments:
How can one subjectively say another person is blind to color or colors? If we are dependent on our perception of the frequencies emitted, our perceptions could (and logically would) vary from person to person... ...the adaptation of perceiving "colors" should correspond with whatever we were taught is a certain color.
Name: Steve
Username: wheeles@mltec01.agw.bt.co.uk
Subject: William James
Date: Mon Jun 2 12:47:47 EDT 1997
Comments:
I am interested in any information that I can get on the modern view of the work of William James (1842 - 1910) the Harvard Professor of Psychology and Psychopathology experimenter. I am particularly interested in current learned opinions on his experiments, and conclusions, in positivism, contiousness, metaphysics, phenomenology, contextualism and hermeneutic analysis. I should add, gentle reader, that I am a simple student of life. I have no formal training in these disciplines. Anyone who knows about this subject, and feeling generous, please respond by e-mail. Even some URLs would be most gratefully received. :-)
Name: Kathy E. Gill
Username: keg@dotparagon.com
Subject: Wm James
Date: Tue Jun 3 21:47:49 EDT 1997
Comments:
Steve, while I am not a student of William James, I am a student of Dale Carnegie, and he (Mr. Carnegie) used James' work as much of the foundation of his principles of 'mind over matter' (my words). I would be interested in any web-based material that you find on Mr. James. Kathy E. Gill keg@dotparagon.com
Name: Kathy E. Gill
Username: keg@dotparagon.com
Subject: to the page-master
Date: Tue Jun 3 21:49:57 EDT 1997
Comments:
Would it be possible to have the posts added in the reverse of their current order, ie, most recent posts at the top of the page? Just an idea ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: message format
Date: Fri Jun 6 15:34:05 EDT 1997
Comments:
Thanks for stopping by. Yep, its a nuisance to have to scroll to end to find the latest. But, if we reverse the message order, then I think one would have the feeling that responses were appearing for messages one didn't know anything about. We're thinking about it. How about if we arrange things so the Forum window opens at the end of the messages, and then one can scroll back up to see what (if anything) is being responded to? In any case, please do come back often.
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@gezernet.co.il
Subject: Various COMMENT no. 1
Date: Sat Jun 7 02:22:48 EDT 1997
Comments:
First a comment somewhat related to the message referred to as: Name: Paul Grobstein Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu Subject: motor skill/learning Date: Sun Mar 2 10:28:50 EST 1997 I just wanted to say that in a recent publication it was described how persons watching moving lips from another individual did not show any activity of the AUDITIVE cortical area. BUT if the lip mover was actually lip talking, there was activity as if the tested subject was actually HEARING. Curiously enough, some months ago, a 2yr. old grandchild was sucking ice, which in Hebrew is pronounced "kehrakh" and I asked her if she liked "keh'akh," as she could not yet prounce the r. She shouted back: "Not ke'hakh....ke'hakh!! She appeared as if she had heard herself pronouncing the r sound. Therefore I realized that there is a connection between what one hears or sees and a correlated cortical area. And why should this be surprising? After all, the name disestesia is given to a pathological state whereby the stimulation of one sense gives rise to a sensation related to another sense. Now, on the excellent idea by Katty E. Gill of finding a better way of presenting the comments: If it were possible for automatically numerate the messages, one could have the latest appear first, as proposed, and refer to the number related to the present communication. Perhaps the site could ask first if it is a new question or a comment on a {X} comment. Now, on the following uncommented question (answered directly?) Subject: Color "Blindness" Date: Fri May 30 01:38:50 EDT 1997 Comments: How can one subjectively say another person is blind to color or colors? The answer is; There are objective tests, mainly employed to detect if a potential driver can differentiate between red and green.
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@gezernet.co.il
Subject: A SUGGESTION
Date: Sat Jun 14 21:24:21 EDT 1997
Comments:
Why don't you turn your attention to the basic Forum: About...Serendip? There I offer the following subjects for discussion, analysis and play. THE GAME OF ANALOGIES, THE GAME OF CONVERSING, and THE GAME OF JUDGING A FELLOW HUMAN BEING AND PUNISHING HIM.
Name: Kate Buenau
Username: buenau@polarnet.com
Subject: blindsight test
Date: Wed Jun 18 21:33:37 EDT 1997
Comments:
I had to do about fifty trials because I saw most of them, and I wanted to have some that I didn't see. I had 22% of what I definitely did not see right. For some reason I always wanted to click the lower-right-hand corner if I hadn't seen the dot. Very few times did I not want to click there. That could probably explain the percentage of nearly 1/4 if the dots appear competely randomly. There were only four that I maybe saw, and I had fifty percent of those right. I think I may try this again sometime. It's quite interesting.
Name: Jake
Username: ghitis@gezernet.co.il
Subject: TRULY SERENDIPITY
Date: Fri Jun 20 14:17:05 EDT 1997
Comments:
I HAVE POSTED in About...Serendipity a story about serendipity playing a role in a discovery that has engraved my name in the Annals of Science till the End of Time. This is about thinking, learning, endeavoring and being exposed to Serendipity's lying of hands. It is also about searching, searching, searching...
Name: Eduardo Diaz
Username: cdiaz1@tribeca.ios.com
Subject: Interesting
Date: Sat Jul 5 23:07:01 EDT 1997
Comments:
This has to be one of the most intersting Web sites that I have come across. On the game I scored a 95. Not sure what exactly that means. Can someone tell me why different people visualize the dots and others don't. Thanx Eduardo Diaz
Name: Prof. Jacob Ghitis
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: PRAGMATIC REASONS
Date: Thu Jul 10 17:39:52 EDT 1997
Comments:
I shall continue contributing even though it would appear that almost nobody reads my writings. For pragmatic reasons I shall concentrate on: About...serendipity. Good luck and so-long.
Name: Leonard B. Finkelstein
Username: lfinkelstein@netreach.net
Subject: Brain and Behavior
Date: Wed Jul 16 23:34:57 EDT 1997
Comments:
Ned Herrmann has been working on the brain from several different directions. As a director of training for GE, he developed a series of workshops which were based on an instrument which he designed. His Whole Brain Model has become an industry where he has trained presenters to use his approach. While he leans very heavily on the theory that there are right and left brain functions, his thoughtful concepts are well worth the time to consider. His World Wide Web address is www.hbdi.com
Name: Ron Lee
Username: saspc@saspc.asn.au
Subject: Nitrous oxide and "enlightenment"
Date: Tue Aug 5 09:03:54 EDT 1997
Comments:
I like your work, your students must find your course quite facinating. Thank you for putting some of it on the 'net for all to consider. I have a question I hope is worthy of your time: I noted the name of William James in relation to Descartes' Error on serendip and knowing his penchant for nitrous oxide use pondered, How is the subjective experience of W.J. inhaling NO2 (it's stated effects on his mind)/'dentist chair enlightenment' and NO2's known anaesthetic properties reconciled within your models?

Clues: the 'subjective' experiences of W.J are not as subjective as some may think but are in fact quite repeatable(in a fuzzy sory of way that would make Heisenberg proud) - complex patterns show correlation but retain a high degree of uniqueness. 2. The medical texts describe in highly uncertain terms that anaethesia occurs when 'the membranes are swollen' by some mystical threshold of 0.4%

I would be most curious to hear your thoughts on this process ie. signal disruption via NO2 inhalation.

It's nice to see someone teaching people to develop their own insights.


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Ron - Towards mutual enlightenment
Date: Tue Aug 5 09:09:12 EDT 1997
Comments:
Thanks for the note, the approving words, and the question.

I should have, but did't, know about W.J.'s experiences with nitrous oxide (how'd you know about them?). From what you've said, though, they seem to be an example of a large class of instances where widespread exposure of the nervous system to fairly simple substances produces surprisingly organized and relatively predictable rather than non-specific and completely unpredictable effects. Lithium salt, used as a therapy for depression, is my own favorite example.

Centrally acting anesthetics are, in general, an enormous mystery (and hence, of course, rich terrain for some imaginative thinking with the potential to change how we think about the nervous system in lots of ways). There is, as you say, no obvious reason why "swollen membranes" across the whole nervous system should yield a sense of "enlightenment". The problem, of course, is that human experience is the product of many many neurons organized into many many groups themseles organized into many many groups and so forth ... so one has to know not only what anesthetics do to individual neurons but how those in turn affect what groups of neurons and groups of groups of neurons and so on are doing. Which means one has to know a lot more than we do as yet about normal organization. Even for long studied things like visual perception, neurobiologists are still pretty shy of what we need to know about these complex group interactions, and "enlightement" is way down on the list of things neurobiologists have studied (or are likely to study in the near future).

With all that said, this particular neurobiologist likes to imagine how one might go about looking at such problems (William James, a very wise man, is a wonderful source of things people OUGHT to have studied). The first question I'd want to begin looking into is whether there are ways in which the effects of nitrous oxide as different in different parts of the nervous system. "Membrane swelling" (and, presumably, associated changes in how membrane potentials are handled), clearly occurs in neurons "in general". But that classic finding in no way precludes the possibility that it has greater effects on some neurons than on others, nor that it has as well additional effects which may be different for different neurons or for neurons in different locations.

Speaking of which, it suddenly occurs to me, along these lines, that there has recently been a major research award reflecting an enormous burst of enthusiasm for recent findings on nitric oxide, indicating that, among other things, it functions as a neurotransmitter in some parts of the nervous system. Nitric oxide (NO) isn't nitrous oxide (NO2), but its not inconceivable that this points to ways nitrous oxide might have neuron or region specific effects.

Regardless, of course, your question remains: how can one, by affecting neuronal activity, get behavioral states with "fuzzy repeatability", complex patterns which "show correlation but retain a high degree of uniquesness"? That is not, I think, in principle so hard to understand (much along the lines you seem to be hinting at). Different ensembles of neurons and groups of neurons have both intrinsic tendencies to be active in different patterns and substantial intrinsic variability. A general change in input to one or more such might well yield behavioral states ("subjective experiences") which have both common features and differences in detail.

Intrigued (obviously) by your question, I did a little quick surfing and turned up, among other things, an interesting article by a French physician. His Near death experiences and transcendental experiences: Neurophysiological correlates and hypotheses makes some interesting and probably appropriate connections among various situations leading to feelings of "enlightenment", and provides a suggested neurobiological common mechanism which, whether correct or not, is a possible concrete form of the general explanation outlined above.

Intrigued, obviously. Thanks again for stimulating me to think more about all this. Hope its helpful, in one way or another, to you. And would, of course, be delighted to have back whatever new thoughts it triggers in you (people like you are what makes it worthwhile for me to make my own thoughts available).


Name: Laura Cody
Username:
Subject: Free will?
Date: Sun Aug 3
Comments:
This test makes no sense to me. Free will is being able to choose otherwise in a given situation and there is much literature saying we are programed from conception so tightly that we really have very little free will if any. I am left handed, I am likely to choose to see the arrows pointing to the left, my preference. I will choose the left more often than not it's hardwired into my brain. I did choose to see the arrows pointing left. I saw them pointing right. Explain this please, frankly I am confused!
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Free will?
Date: Tues Aug 5 10:03:46 EDT 1997
Comments:
Thanks for writing. The free will exhibit is one of Serendip's original offerings, is a little cryptic, and needs to be expanded to be clearer. We'll try and do that in the near future. In the meanwhile, let me expand a bit here ... and you tell me if it helps.

Yes, I think "free will" is "being able to choose otherwise in a given situation". And that, in turn, depends on their being at least some parts of the brain which are NOT "programmed from conception so tightly". There is pretty good evidence that the needed intrinsic variability exists not only in the human brain but in the nervous systems of all organisms. Ambiguous figures, like the Serendip arrows, reveal this lack of tight programming in the human brain. Yes, one way of seeing the arrows may be easier under a given set of circumstances, but people (at least most people) can, under the same circumstances, see the arrows pointing in either direction.

The lack of "tight programming" is necessary, but not sufficient for "being able to choose otherwise in a given situation". The additional requirement is the ability to "choose" among the available options permitted by "intrinsic variability". Peoples' experiences with the exhibit (at least many peoples', including my own) suggest that humans have this ability in one sense, but not in another. As you say, one often does NOT see the arrows pointing in the direction one chose, at least not initially. But, having chosen a particular direction, one can wait around, refusing to act, and eventually intrinsic variability will yield the percept one chose. The "free will" is not the ability to choose how one will see the arrows, but rather the ability to withhold action while waiting for intrinsic variability to generate some alternative bases for action.

Yes, you have preferences. Everybody does. No, no one is absolutely free to act any way they will at any time. But yes, people have some (actually quite substantial) ability to control the actions they take. And, the more this is understood, the greater that ability can, in principal, become. Does that help at all? I'd enjoy hearing your reactions. The exchange obviously helps me to more clearly think through the problem ... and is very much in the spirit of what Serendip is all about. Since others may well have concerns about the free will exhibit like yours, I'm going to put some of our exchange there .... as a way of beginning the needed update. Many thanks again for writing.


Name: Laura Cody
Username:
Subject: Free will?
Date: Tues Aug 5 1997
Comments:
Are you saying what I think you are saying? That "free will" can be learned, like learning reading and writing and arithmatic? If so what learned, like learning reading and writing and arithmatic? If so what does that make "free will", a function of the intellect? It certainly would no longer be a gift from "God" or that "something" that sets humans apart from animals. If we can or must learn to ignore our hardwiring to really choose, than so can other animals (perhaps they already do!) then free will is nothing very special. Think of the implication here! Actually I agree that free will is something that is learned. Once we truly 'know thyself' then we can freely choose more often then those who automatically respond to situation without awareness. Now as for convincing myself that the arrows are pointing to the left when they are not, is that not just self-deception?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: free will!
Date: Wed Aug 6 11:20:09 EDT 1997
Comments:
My oh my ... yes, INDEED, I'm saying that ... though I never actually SAID it as clearly as you just did. Thanks again. Yes, indeed, free will "can be learned" ... in the sense that one can become increasingly "free" to make choices. And provide the wherewithal/encouragement for others to do so as well. And that is very much the point (in an educational context, among others).

At a practical level, what all this seems to imply is that people have "free will" precisely to the extent that they can "see" any given thing in a variety of different ways, and the ability/inclination to sometimes withhold action while allowing themselves first to experience those different ways of seeing things. The latter corresponds, I suppose, to what is sometimes called "self-discipline", and the former to some combination of experience and creativity. Yes, "know thyself" is certainly a contributor to free will, but so too are experiences with other things, since that is important to maximizing the number of ways one can see any given thing.

A "function of the intellect"? Not alone; it certainly depends as well on creativity, together with emotion and intuition. But a function of the brain? Sure. Other animals? I suspect so, at least some, though that's too long a story to go into here. And doesn't, in any case, seem to me such a bad thing. I sort of like the notion that, to varying degrees, different animals, like different humans, have the wherewithal to imagine better worlds and work to make them so

No, no self-deception; that's cheating (and its probably interesting, for thinking more about this, that one can tell the difference). I suspect you more easily see the arrows pointing right not because of your handedness (though this could certainly be an influence), but because of the way this particular figure is drawn (it appears to be green arrows on a yellow background, another influence). We could examine all the probably very large number of influences with appropriate experiments (and this too might be interesting to do), but the point is, even in the face of them, one (at least most people) CAN see the figure either way. Try imagining that it is the GREEN that is the background. NOW do you see yellow arrows pointing to the left? If so, you've just enhanced your capacity for free will.


Name: Kate Buenau
Username: buenau@polarnet.com
Subject: Strabismus
Date: Sat Aug 9 23:15:43 EDT 1997
Comments:
I have strabismus, which means my eyes don't work together. My left eye drifts out and up a little bit. Still, I have a full range of vision, I just don't have depth perception. As far as I know, I've had it all my life despite several operations when I was very young to try and correct it. In the past few years, I've realized that I can consciously make my eyes straighten out and therefore see in three dimensions. Because of the vertical imbalance with one eye wanting to drift upward, though, it's very hard to keep it that way, and I have to concentrate on it constantly. I rarely do it because of the difficulty involved, although it does get easier with practice. I am wondering how my brain processes this. My eye doctor seems to believe that it would be difficult to train me to use both eyes all the time. Using prisms would help, but I wouldn't be able to do it without them. Is binocular vision and processing depth something the brain has to learn? My doctor said that therapy and exercises usually only work with young children, so does that mean that like speech or any other major function, that it has to be learned early while the brain is still forming? I'm sixteen, so I don't think my optimal learning time is up yet, but would it get harder the longer I wait and the less I practice? I wonder how my brain can give me a full range of peripheral vision without combining the information. Why do my eyes need to be lined up? And how can my brain process depth once they are lined up, even though I've never had binocular vision? I know I can process depth because the difference is fairly obvious, especially so if I'm driving or otherwise moving rapidly, but the extra dimension is too overwhelming for me to use the advantages of it. I know this is a lot of questions. I was wondering if anyone had insight on how this worked, or if there is research about subjects like this.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: To Kate
Date: Sat Aug 16 14:15:00 EDT 1997
Comments:
Yep, lots of questions. And VERY interesting ones. Thanks for writing. Yes, lots of research on subjects like this, with some answers, but also with a need for new questions based on observations from people like you who have some direct experience and are curious about their own experiences.

Where to start? Yes, binocular vision and processing depth is, to some extent, something the brain "has to learn". More accurately, the connections which the brain uses to combine information from the two eyes so as to (among other things) perceive depth are, like most connections, influenced by both genetic information and experience. There has been, and continues to be, a lot of work on this subject in experimental animals, and your doctor is correctly reporting the general conclusion from this research: misalignment of the eyes early in life makes it very difficult (perhaps impossible) to ever get these particular connections "right", no matter how the eyes are aligned later. And, yes, most people would guess that, in humans, sixteen is probably too old.

But, there's much more to the story. The particular connections which have been extensively studied are only ONE of the ways that your brain (and everyone else's) has to determine that different things are at different distances. So it makes sense that you (and other people like you) can, in general, see depth even in their absence. And the ability to "consciously" control eye movements (and its possible impact on development of connections) is much less well-studied and much less well understood.

So, your report that you can "consciously make my eyes straighten out and therefore see in three dimensions" is interesting, and might be interesting to others, particularly if you could describe your experiences a little more (in what sense is the "extra dimension ... overwhelming"? You might also want to do a little exploring yourself about what is known about binocular vision, brain development, and depth perception; you may have out of your own experiences an interesting career to follow. I'm a little frustrated that we don't have more material on this area on Serendip, and that I can't find much of use for you on the web (though you might want to do some browsing yourself). We will try and create some relevant exhibits. In the meanwhile, there are some Scientific American articles you could look at: one on brain development in September, 1979, and another on brain mechanisms of vision, in that same issue. If you like, and want to tell me where you're located, I might also be able to suggest someone in your area who could help you find out more about this sort of thing.


Name: Laura Cody
Username:
Subject: more free will
Date: Tue Aug 11 1997
Comments:
O.k. I saw the arrows going both ways, not just left, but that is just an optical illusion at worst and creative non-linear thinking at best. But does it really enhance free will? I suppose it does as creative thinking requires that one breaks mental molds. And from your instructions to me you have reinforced the notion that free will is learned behavior. Definetly nothing special in that. Dogs are trained, scientists regularly teach behavior to mice. So now what is it that sets us apart from other living creatures? Language? Expression of Ideas? I'm starting to think those attributes are also not confined to humans exclusively. MY, maybe there is nothing altogether special about the human race, except the fact that we manipulate our environment to extremes.

Have you ever read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn? It's an interesting book.

I am a non-traditional student (age 44) at Schreiner College in Kerrville Texas. A junior, majoring in Philosophy with a heavy interest in religious studies. My personal intense interest is Philosophy of Emotion. I have not been able to find much readable philosophic literature about it, but plenty in the field of psychology. Any thing in biology about emotion?


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: More more free will
Date: Tue Aug 16 1997
Comments:
Glad you did it! But you ARE hard to please. JUST an "optical illusion"? Only if you believe there is actually something different there. In fact, what is THERE is neither arrows pointing left nor arrows pointing right but only a distribution of light energy which your brain "interprets" as one or the other. Which is generally true for seeing (and other forms of perception). So it may be an optical illusion, but so is everything else. "Creative non-linear thinking"? Sure, which is to say the capacity to allow one's brain to explore alternate ways of seeing. Which, yes, enhances the choices for what one can express in behavior, and hence free will. Not too bad? Makes humans special? Probably not completely, but probably does explain why we can so markedly impact our environment (and give us the capacity to choose to impact it less).

No, haven't read Ishmael. Want to tell me more about it? Or, maybe, even write about it for Serendip? We're thinking of putting together a Serendip bookshelf. I'm, of course, a "non-traditional student" too, never having wanted to get out of learning about new things. Emotion? In biology as opposed to psychology? Depends on how you define the terms. Descartes' Error is a very interesting and readable book by a neurobiologist, certainly more on the biology than the psychology side (though they are not always, and probably shouldn't be, distinguishable). Serendip could use more on emotion, so if you ever feel inclined to write more extensively about it, let us know.


Name: Laura Cody
Username:
Subject: Free will plus
Date: Tue Aug 17 1997
Comments:
When you get down to the nitty gritty, "energy" is all everything, including us, is. So you need to or I need to define optical illusion better. Assume the patterns of light are really there, exactly as most would perceive them, as green arrows, pointing to the right. because of the construction of the patterns of light, the left pointing yellow arrows are there, just harder to see (impossible for some). The darker color (green) being dominate to our senses, will hit us first, the optical illusion is meant by me to mean that we have to look harder to see the yellow arrows, as they are "hidden". They don't stand out! But this doesn't mean that everything is illusion, does it? Berekely kept saying the horse is really in the stable. Not just an illusion!!!! I am really here.....I think.

Ishmael seemingly defines freewill(or original sin) as being able to disobey natural laws or God's laws. We have the ability to and did take ourselves out of the environmental niche we (humanity) were in. But we cannot stay out forever, like a rubberband pulled taunt, our choice will snap back at us. The longer we persist in staying out of our niche, the more devastating the snap. OUCH! So if we can choose to impact it less, we best get to it. And our choices? to be fruitful and multiply, and to store foods for times of famine, and to refuse other species the right to food/life. Most interesting explaination of the cain and abel story in the book "Ishmael"

I have heard of "Decartes Error", I am presently reading "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman who seems to have based some or most of his work on Damasio's book. And from what I read in serendip about "error", I intend to check it out. But what the whole field of Emotion needs is tighter definition of terms and a third Coprenican (spel?) revolution. However, I'm not quite up to the task right now, need to do more research, and entirely too inexperienced in the whole field to attempt such an audacious task. But I have time, I hope.


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: More free will plus
Date: Tue Aug 19 10:19:36 EDT 1997
Comments:
"I am really here ..... I think" is a wonderful way to describe the matter. And the arrows are really there .... I think. And, if Berkeley had asserted that he THINKS the horse is really in the stable, it would have saved a lot of subsequent philosophical wrangling. Of course, Berkeley didn't have a lot of observations/experiences that subsequently became available. The light energy reaching your eyes really IS the same regardless of which way you see the arrows, and so what you (or I) see really is NOT what is out there. You (and I) don't SEE the light; what we SEE is an interpretation of the light reaching our eyes. That is the REAL significance of optical illusions ... they allow us to recognize the distinction between our perception and what (may) be out there. And yes, in an important sense, it DOES mean everything is an illusion. "Optical illusions" are just cases where it is particularly obvious that what we see is an interpretation (since it is relatively easy to "see" the same thing in different ways). In fact, everything we see is, in the sense just described, "made up".

So, is there REALLY a horse in the barn? REALLY a reality out there? I think so. But that's the important point: I THINK so. And the reason I think so isn't because I see it but because I also feel it, smell it, can touch it. And because other people tell me they can see/feel/smell/touch it too. All the evidence I have is that there is indeed a horse (and a reality) out there .... but that's a hypothesis, a good working presumption, not a Truth (at least that's how I think it is).

Illusion as what's "harder to see"? And free will as the ability "to disobey natural law"? Lots of "illusions" are EASIER to see, rather than harder, and I don't think ANYTHING (humans included) can disobey "natural law" ("God's laws" are a different subject, with which I have less experience). You give one reason: in my experience, natural law always bites back. Another reason (which we've touched on in earlier exchanges) is that humans are part of nature, and so unavoidably subject to its laws (whatever it feels like). So, my own inclination is not to think of free will as escaping natural law but rather as something which is allowed by (created by) natural law. Both "allowed by" and constrained by natural law, which is why some things we try to do we get punished for. That's part of the process of coming to better understand natural law. I think.

Thinking is what's MOST important. Happy for you (and Serendip) that you're taking the time for it.


Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: On METATHINKING
Date: Wed Aug 20 18:58:33 EDT 1997
Comments:
Laura Cody asked on November 11 what differentiates us humans from lesser species. Since animals have been shown to make abstractions, that is not enough. They obviously think; however, it is very unlikely that they can abstract the idea of thinking, what I refer to as 'metathinking,' as explained in one of the Comments in one of the forums (See also Metaphysics). Actually, why not copy it here?

METATHINKING
Example of Emergent versus Resultant: We may safely assume that certain animals, such as the dolphin, think. We also may accept that other animals think in a more primitive way. However, probably all of us feel quite sure that only some primates are capable of abstract thinking. And we are quite positive that only H. sapiens is capable of thinking about thinking, i.e., of metathinking. The different degrees and modes of thinking are natural Resultants. The capacity to abstract the concept of thinking constitutes a natural Emergent, which is a complexity, since it actually is not just a variety of thinking. In fact, metathinking is the highest degree of mental manifestation, the essence of the mind. Perhaps that is what Aristotle had in mind when he thought about 'thought of thought,' as the "Primum Movens."
Name: Brian Ellis
Username: eire@taro.poi.net
Subject: School Counselors in Elementary Schools, Why?
Date: Wed Aug 20 19:36:41 EDT 1997
Comments:
Since I find the questions posed in this forum quite valuable I felt I would enlist your support in my query. Where are the answers? Post to comments your opinion to my quetion. Thanks, Brian.
Name: Ron
Username: saspc@saspc.asn.au
Subject: Dis-illusioning.
Date: Sat Aug 23 06:59:22 EDT 1997
Comments:
Hi All, It seems the word 'illusion' is self fullfilling. WWWebster gives us: "perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature" as one possible interpretation.(Look up the others if you like). If your still not sure Laura, try adjusting the contrast on your monitor.. when the green fades to black (or the yellow white).. now what do you see?? Lovely thoughts on the nature of human thinking Paul(I see you DO understand MY minor irritation with 'academia';). It occurs to me that many people 'fear' thinking purely because that is the illusion cast upon them from their earliest observations. When tutoring skydivers we often try to 'push the comfort zone' with results not unlike those you observed with your students. If you can comfortably memorise what you are told you 'need' to know, it must be horrifying to abandon that for an opinion of your own.... (not nearly as horrifying as being in freefall at 100ft and realising nobody told you what to do next..). I guess thats why they call it NATURAL selection;
Name: LEON LEDERMAN
Username:
Subject:
Date: Sat Aug 23 07:54:01 EDT 1997
Comments:
HELLO ALL JUST WANTED TO CONGRATULATE YOU ON THIS GREAT SITE.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Happened to drop by
Date: Sat Aug 23 12:36:35 EDT 1997
Comments:
Thanks, Leon. Hope you'll come back, join in. And Brian too. I'm curious about the "school Counselors in Elementary Schools". Are you one? Or are you directing the question to them? As the Serendip logo has it, "Life is not really so difficult if you just follow the instructions" (but those turn out inevitably to be ambiguous and incomplete). Which is to say, we have to make up not only the answers but even the questions as we go along. That help? If so, there's some recent stuff on how all this bears on education in the About Serendip section of our Forum area.

Lots of cross connects between that Forum and this one at the moment. Yes, Ron, academics are not, by and large, any more comfortable than any one else at appreciating the enjoyments of "free fall", and that thought about why people don't in general like to think ought to be added to the list of things under discussion in re education. And Jake's thoughts too probably have something to do with all that, as well as speaking to Laura's concerns. That I need to mull some more. Back anon.


Name: Ron
Username: saspc@saspc.asn.au
Subject: More Illusions
Date: Sat Aug 23 17:59:35 EDT 1997
Comments:
Skydiving metaphors always seem open to misinterpretation (possibly in the nature of,'you cannot KNOW what you do not know'). Only a person truely illused would be *comfortable* in freefall at 100ft. Physics says 'at that height no matter what you do your dead' - some parachutes take 900ft to open at that speed. A thinking person with knowledge of the situation would have made a descision long before that point in time. (So would someone correctly 'programmed') - LOOK, REACH, PULL, 1000, 2000, 3000.... This was just an example of a *momentous* descision - an instance where to exercise the 'free will' of NOT making a descision until some later point in time is clearly perilous. Indeed my own 'academic' path may have gone down different roads, had your ideas on education been 'the norm' some time ago. On the other hand, I wonder if I would have recognised it then?? Either way, I value *all* the roads I've travelled.. they've all been *educational*. 'Whatever you do today - make the most of it - for you just traded a day of your life for it.' -Product of China.(No I'm not asian either Jake - Lee is a scottish derivation.)
Name: Ron
Username:
Subject: Hmm.
Date: Sat Aug 23 18:12:12 EDT 1997
Comments:
Does this forum have a (grin) filter or does it just chop out anything inside carets?? It's hard to use the language to it's fullest extent by adding 'rules' to it..(strained smile) But then you already KNEW that..... I'll adapt(grin)..
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Filters and free fall
Date: Sat Aug 23 19:25:14 EDT 1997
Comments:
Alright, alright. I AGREE there is a time for free will (and free fall) ... and a time for NO free will. To every thing, there is a season, and a time for every purpose ... I even said something to this effect up above (19 August): "natural law always bites back ... part of the process of understanding natural law". All of which in turn bears on what I think Jake means by "metathinking" and I call the "I-function". And what its good for ... and not good for. Part of the mull to be returned to.

I'm pleased/flattered, Ron, at your thought about what education might have been, but am like you just as happy you took the paths you took; it makes it more fun and instructive to try and work out how we happned to come out in such similar places. Don't be inhibited. You can (grin). But not in carats. Our forum posting program is sensitive to HTML (hypertext markup language, which is what allows me to put paragraphs, boldfaces, links, and the like in), and all the formatting commands in HTML are enclosed in carets. And so the program interprets anything in carets. Since opencarat-grin-closedcarat doesn't mean anything in HTML it gets ignored. Sorry. But constraints also create opportunities. You can (grin) and also (grin), the latter if you type (opencaretbclosedcaretgrinopencaret/bclosedaret), where opencaret and closedcaret are the respective keys.


Name: Tania Jacob
Username: jacob@net1.nw.com.au
Subject: Leon Lederman???!!
Date: Sun Aug 24 07:26:27 EDT 1997
Comments:
OH MY GOD!!!! (sorry God, I didn't mean to use your name in vain) But was that REALLY Leon Lederman (the physicist) at this site? If it was, please come back and give me your @. I have many questions to ask.
Name: Ron
Username:
Subject: I -Function
Date: Mon Aug 25 09:10:22 EDT 1997
Comments:
Have you come up with a concise description for the I-Function yet Paul. I'm curious to test a few physics models I have against it. Uncertainty may not be as un-certain as we believe < g >.
Name: c.field
Username: cfield@edu.jhu
Subject: dualism
Date: Tue Aug 26 13:46:44 EDT 1997
Comments:
Anybody read any good reviews of the late Sir John Eccles and Friedrich Beck's 1994 book, How the Self controls It's Brain?
Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject: blindsight
Date: Wed Aug 27 20:43:12 EDT 1997
Comments:
after many attempts, could not get the game to execute. target did not appear, cursor did not change shape, p0lay button did not change to stop/ could not set up parameters even though game indicated java aplet was running.
Name: Luis Almeida Pinheiro
Username: lapinh@ibm.net
Subject: neurolinguistic prog.(nlp)
Date: Tue Sep 2 09:59:29 EDT 1997
Comments:
How are you related with nlp? Can I send you my writings(in potuguese...) I am very interested in your work.Excellent! best regards Luis
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: YOU STILL SPEAK PORTUGUESE?
Date: Fri Sep 5 08:21:31 EDT 1997
Comments:
Luis: Until you get a better clarification, I would appreciate knowing what is neurolinguistic p. I am interested in Linguistic Analysis, but the neurobiologist is Paul. It appears that only a rather infinitely small percentage of our correspondents ('serendipitants')speak Portuguese. Make a good gesture, will you?.. and learn the world's current lingua franca , which has replaced Aramaic, as you must have noticed
Name: Norman Holland
Username: norman-holland@ufl.edu
Subject: Query: Sacks quote
Date: Thu Sep 18 11:09:28 EDT 1997
Comments:
Does anyone know the location of this quotation from Oliver Sacks that appeared in the Sunday NYTimes 1/19/1997: "`Style,' neurologically, is the deepest part of one's being and may be preserved, almost to the last, in a dementia." As you can imagine, this idea is of considerable interest to an English teacher who believes in the continuities of human creation. Norm Holland
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: ON STYLE AND ETERNITY
Date: Sat Sep 20 13:26:58 EDT 1997
Comments:
Norman,indeed I find that quotation as very sisgnificant, even strangely touching. It appears to be related to the sense of continuity, which is basic to religions and the quest for eternity. I would like you to expand on this subject, telling us about O. Sacks, style, English teaching, what you mean by 'continuities...' and about you and your work. This appears to be a very interesting subject, balancing with its human touch the robotic 'styles' of the Internet, which would benefit by taming and guidance.
Name: monir
Username: monir@besancon.net
Subject: brainwave monitor
Date: Sun Sep 21 13:52:19 EDT 1997
Comments:
Hello, i'm desperatly searching for an electric schematic of a brainwave monitor (EEG biofeedback), please email me any solution if you can, thanks by advance! monir@besancon.net
Name: Bill McKim
Username: bmckim@play.psych.mun.ca
Subject: Free Will revisited
Date: Tue Oct 21 11:19:36 EDT 1997
Comments:
You say "What this indicates is that one part of your brain (the part that contains YOU) is capable of observing the variable inputs of another part of your brain (the part that is responsible for what you see) and deciding whether or not to act based on the perception offered at any given time." What about that part of the brain ther "contains YOU"? Is there something special about it that the other part of the brain does not have? THis is like sauing that the visual part of the brain must obey the laws of physics, but the part that contains "you" does not, because it can do "underermined" things. Surely scientists cannot study "underermined things". To designate that an event is undetermined automatically puts it beyond the reach of legitimate range of scientific enquiry, like God or angels. The fact that we define Psychology as the scientific study of behavior means that we believe that behavior follows laws or regularities. To talk about "free will" suggests that behavior does not follow laws. Your demonstration simply suggests that set can influence what we report we see. We do not know enough about the moment when the choice (i.e. left or right) is made to predict whether the choice (and consequent ) set will be left or right, so it may appear random or undetermined, but, like the numbers in a lottery, that does not mean that that it is not "undetermined".
Name: E. W. Artzman
Username: mred2000@erols.com
Subject: Free Will Again
Date: Wed Oct 22 22:35:27 EDT 1997
Comments:
Bill McKim's comments seem to be on the right track concerning the subject of free will, but I just wanted to throw my two cents in. Instead of using the traditional terms with all their traditional baggage, why not just concentrate on the notion of caused and uncaused behavior? Of course, it is very hard to think of what "uncaused behavior" might be--personally I think that the term is empty, but there is a serious complication to the issue and that is variability. Even if all behavior is caused, there is lots of variation possible in the way that such causal factors may come together and express themselves. Especially when the consequences are trivial or pointless (as in the case of interpreting the arrow pattern in the Serendip example, the causal balance of power may one moment lean one way and then just a few seconds later tilt to the other side. Likewise, when I am tying my shoes, I can do the left one first or the right or the right first and then the left and it will make no difference. The more pointless and trivial a choice might be the more likely it will appear to be "indetermined," "uncaused," or "free." But the more serious and complicated a choice might be, the more likely we will find a definite pattern to events, a real causal force behind that whatever diversity appears on surface. Killing another human being, for instance, is not something that most humans can do very easily. Either they have to be forced and/or especially motivated to do so for reasons of patriotism, moral outrage, or whatever (most soldiers in warfare are simply shooting back at people whom they believe will kill them if given a chance) or they have to be far removed from the scene of the killing (like the bomber pilots of WWII). Those who enjoy the killing or who do so for little or no provocation are real moral defectives and possible very troubled people. The mechanism controling their behvior is dangerously out of whack. Of course, when all is said and done, this is a very deterministic point of view. But I could not help it; I am a determinist.
Name: Jake
Username:
Subject: SERENDIP DISCOVERED IN ISRAEL!
Date: Sat Oct 25 18:05:40 EDT 1997
Comments:
ON SERENDIPITY

Jeff Abramowitz , the Internet weekly columnist in the Jerusalem Post weekly magazine, and whom I do not know personally, printed SERENDIP'S logo as the week's choice and wrote the following on October 24 1997 :

"SERENDIP" (serendip.brynmawr.edu) is another fine site, aimed at "people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete." All of us, in other words. Actually, it is difficult to classify this one. It is not fun, although fun is to be had; it doesn't qualify fully as entertainment, since you have to do a fair amount of thinking, and it isn't really 100% educational, although you emerge from it edified. I would call it "edutainment," except I hate that word, and after the revolution, who ever invented it can look forward to be edutained in front of a firing squad. It's best to let the site describe itself: "Serendip is both an expanding forum and a continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education, in social organization... and in how one makes sense of life." Forget the bit about change in education, and social organization (unless you're that way inclined, in which case abi gezunt). It's the last bit, making sense of life, which provides the serendipity.
Each subarea of "Serendip"--the brain, biology, science, culture and so on--contains interactive games, puzzles, quizzes, tests; call them what you will, they're thought-provoking and give you a different perspective on things. Since there's a lot here, and most of it is good, it's worth bookmarking for repeated visits.

Note added by Jake: SERENDIP was created and is continuously developed by Prof. Paul Grobstein, Brynmawr College and U., Pensylvania.

Name: Laura Cody
Username: martin.t@usa.net
Subject: Metathinking
Date: Sun Oct 26 15:38:48 EST 1997
Comments:
Dr. Ghitis's suggestion (August 20)as to what seperates us from mere animals is an interesting thought, but I could play slippery slope here and ask him if he is willing to accept that other animals think, then could they possibly not also think about thinking? It is very hard to observe anothers thoughts but it is relatively easy to observe behavior and one thing that does differentiate us from other life is that where we are often deterministic in that we have strong urges to do things like eat, sleep, have sex, etc., unlike the "lower" life forms we are capable (after training, or learning) to choose when these actions take place. We are delaying gratification. Do other animals do this on a regular basis. And, if not, then Paul G., would you say this is free will, that is, delaying primal gratification?
Name: Jake
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: To LAURA on METATHINKING
Date: Wed Oct 29 19:48:13 EST 1997
Comments:
To: Laura Cody

Subject: Metathinking
Date: Sun Oct 26 1997
Dr. Ghitis's suggestion (August 20)as to what separates us from {mere}('non-rational') animals is an interesting thought...(I) ask him, if he is willing to accept that other animals think, then why not accept that they possibly also think about thinking?
** It is quite accepted that animals think, for it would be far-fetched to even suspect that they act just on instinct. Cats can 'count' since a mother realizes that a baby of hers is missing. If we deny this fact, how can we be sure that humans think? Animals other than humans obviously 'think' differently. Homo sapiens requires language--spoken or mentally imaged--for 'human,' advanced thinking.

Ergo, animals must use a different approach for their thinking. Rat's whiskers serve for communication with the brain by means of some sort of radio-like electromagnetic wave, for example. As a corollary, to be able to metathink, a highly developed complex language has to be present. Most probably primitive people are unable to even grasp the concept of metathinking, the highest manifestation of thinking.

Laura, attempting to go further in our dialog would be an exercise in futility. I have coined the 'metathinking' neologism; however, as you know, I am just building on 1st BCE century's use of the 'meta' prefix to create the word 'metaphysics'--then understood as meaning 'after 'Physics'(Aristotle's manuscript) and developing afterwards into acquiring further meanings.
Yet Aristotle's concept of 'thought of thought' as the Prime Mover-- the first cause, immutable, in sum, God--perhaps was not related to the meaning that 'meta-thinking' embodies, as I understand it. Suppose you state: "Physics is the study of matter, while Metaphysics is the study of Physics: How and when it was defined as a branch of knowledge, how it evolved, what is the use of it..." Just as: "Thinking is using the mind to grasp and analyze meanings, while Metathinking is the study of thinking: When was thinking defined as an activity of the mind, where does it reside, what function does it serve, what are its limits, can we arrive by thinking to understanding the essence of the universe."

Laura,we are able to comprehend that time is a dimension of energy and that therefore it is uniform in forward movement in spite of zonal 'warps' caused by effects related to Special Relativity, and that space is a dimension of matter, not uniform but expanding, and most probably deflating in the future, obeying physical laws related to the necessarily critical mass-energy limit-- at least in our Universe, if there are others.

Metathinking also refers to the awesome question: "Will the human mind evolve in the course of eons to the point where it will be capable of understanding the essence of what exists, comprehending the never-beginning and never-ending organized--limited or unlimited-- amount of matter-energy?"

Laura, it is my impression that those who search for "THE TRUTH" are actually asking these very questions, but Iíll go no further. Suffice to say:

"Happy those who do not succumb to the disillusion of never finding THE TRUTH. Religion may be a way to mental salvation. Better still, being modest and walking--not in the wake--but ahead the steps of past seekers' of the existing truth, such as Thales, who used thinking to discover that phenomena are natural, independent of any god's shenanigans; or walking ahead of other past thinkers, such as Compte the Positivist and of those, like Descartes, who rejected absolute authority on knowledge." **

** Now, as per your question, dear Laura, about voluntarily delaying gratification, not just under the duress of a trainer's presence: Cats delay the gratification of excreting until some appropriate recipient is found, but not by training but by instinct. Dogs are trained for that effect, they do not 'think' about such action. Only humans are capable of deciding upon delaying a gratification until a given condition is present." **

Keep in touch! Yours,
Jake


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: To Bill, E.W,, Laura, and ...
Date: Sun Nov 2 22:14:58 EST 1997
Comments:
Nice questions/thoughts. Thanks for taking me seriously. And making me do the same. Bill, its not the YOU part of the brain that I am suggesting is "undetermined" ... its the part of the brain that generates the candidate pictures (left or right arrows). And, since ITS indeterminate, the behavior which results is also to some degree indeterminate. Maybe a clearer way to say it is that the YOU part of the brain may (or may not) have very determinate ways of choosing among the possible pictures, but if the pictures among which it can choose are indeterminate then, to that degree, so is the expressed behavior. This is, perhaps, less interesting if there are only two, previously known, possible pictures, but gets substantially more interesting if the YOU part of the brain is choosing among a much larger array of things, including many which it may not in advance know exist.

No, I don't think behavior "falls to follow laws". I DO think, however, that among the laws it follows is a neural indeterminacy principle, not unlike a fundamental statistical reality in physics. And I think that no more denies the possibility of the "scientific study of behavior" than a comparable reality precludes the scientific study of matter and energy. It does, however, mean we have to design and evaluate investigations somewhat differently than we would if we were committed to determinsism (see link for some examples).

And yes, I think all of this has a LOT to do with what we mean by "moral" choices. The longstandindg problem with "determinism" is that it (like much of religion) makes human choice meaningless, and gives one very little to do about people who behave "badly" other than to attribute it to something being "out of whack". I much better like the idea that people do have "choices", there are specific brain mechansims which interact to achieve this, and hence one can help to maximize the capability for "choice" behavior in all individuals (and, in such individuals, hold people to account for their choices).

Does all this help to distinguish us from "mere animals"? No, I don't think so (in part because I sort of like being a part of "animalness", and don't therefore feel much inclined to search for a distinction). Certainly animals "think", and some, at least, do, I suspect, both delay gratification and "think about thinking". My guess, though, for neurological reasons, is that the latter is pretty much confined to larger, fuzzier animals (like us). And occurs to varying extents in different ones (as it does in different humans). All of which is to say that "free will" is never entirely "free", but it can, to varying degrees in varying organisms, be made more so. Let's keep working on it?


Name: Tony Shen
Username: qiash306@student.liu.se
Subject: subconsciouness
Date: Mon Nov 10 21:21:54 EST 1997
Comments:
I am a student of computer science, the following contents is from my viewpoit, it is a subtract from one of my thesis on machine cognition and artificial intelligence. It is very funny to have an internal comparision between computer and brain, mental and software, If you don't feel interested, just delete it. Opinions and suggestions are welcome.
_________________________________________

The text is available in Serendipia.


Name: E. W. Artzman
Username: mred2000@erols.com
Subject: Choices
Date: Sun Nov 16 22:44:39 EST 1997
Comments:
In reply to Paul Grobstein's comments of Nov. 2 I just wanted to say, "Who says determinism makes human choice meaningless?" After all, the one thing most determminists want to maintain is that there is a mechanism for making choices in the human brain, a mechanism that is rather hair-triggered and variable if the choice is relatively meaningless (meaning that it can go off in most any direction if the consequeces of choice do not connect with more basic motives and interests) and that becomes more determinate and ironclad when serious connections are made (connections to deeper and more powerful interests). The "choice" is always there in one sense at least in that, given other causes and motives, a different choice could arise. Perhaps given a longer period of reflection, those motives will surface; perhaps on Tuesday motives will pop into the mind that were not there on Sunday or Monday. The decisions still have to made according to some cause or motive and our thinking about the problem helps to crystalize those motives and interests. Even people who make wrong choices from our point of view need to be delt with accordingly--incarcerated if that is what it takes, or given psychiatric treatment if that will be effective. That is a more dispassionate and humane way to treat criminals. They have made decisions that we consider wrong, but in the grand scheme of things nothing is ever truly right or wrong, just necessary (in a strictly causal sense, that is), E. W. Artzman in Boston
Name: Laura Cody
Username: lecody@ktc.com
Subject: Metathinking
Date: Mon Dec 15 22:16:17 EST 1997
Comments:
Jake, Thank you for making your comments on meta-thinking so clear. I am often curious about what is going on in the minds of those scientists, philosophers, theologians and other intellectuals who insist on using obscure words and phases to explain their theories. I did fail to understand what you originally meant by the term meta-thinking. To think about thinking. OK, now where will that take me? To Descartes "I think therefore I am." Not very satisfactory, but where else will thinking about thinking take us. How we think? Where we think? What we think? Why we think? And last but not least. When we think? Of course there are some who would fall under the category of; If we think? or Don't you ever think? Simple yes, but I like to keep things simple. Yes, if we could answer these questions about thinking we may actually approach "truth". It would serve to take us to the pinnacle of knowledge, for to know these things would answer the question of; why are we here as we are seemingly different from other life? Perhaps cats and dogs do not concern themselves with such thoughts of this nature and perhaps it is the thing that separates us from them. If so it is a fine line since cats do think and so do other animals. As a fine line it also could mean that any animal could join us on the "human level" as some believe the dolphin has already. This fine line brings up some serious moral questions of how we treat other life on this planet that we share. Many things to think about on top of thinking about thinking.
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@stsr.net.il
Subject: TO LAURA CODY
Date: Wed Dec 17 18:05:07 EST 1997
Comments:

TO LAURA

Very pleased to find your post. I'll comment on it. This will take me a long time, thinking and writing. But I'll be able to shed light on the areas that you find obscure. Laura, I am professionally a scientist, while philosophy is a scientific derivative, an avocation intimately connected to my scientific way of thinking. I find general philosophy boring and read a little just to be informed. This week I read about Quine's 67 years production...My impression was that he has been wasting his and other's time. I demand clarity. In Genesis Jacob tells Laban of his desire to marry "Rachel, your youngest daughter." This is perhaps the first example of tautology used with the intention of avoiding confusion in comunication: there was no logic reason to add anything to 'Rachel,' since she was the youngest. Yet Jacob knew that her father was a cheater. Still, Laban did cheat him! Confucius then stressed the need of clear expression, and more recently, Analytical and Linguistic Philosophy, derivatives of the Positivistic Philosophy, can be summarized as: "Be unambiguous!" Do not doubt, Laura, that I will comment to you in a clear, alethic, language, a result of positivistic thinking! Would you care to email me a concise C.V.?



Name: Laura Cody
Username: lecody@ktc.com
Subject: To Jake
Date: Wed Dec 17 21:14:31 EST 1997
Comments:
Oh my, I feel as though I have just been insulted. Of course it is just a feeling, nothing scientific there, and I am probably mistaken, or again have misunderstood your missive again. I too, do very little reading of philosophers unless it is necessary, they are usually too obscure for my tastes, but I am very interested in the question of why we are here, for what reason. Science has shed much light on how things work, but that does not answer the why. I think that it is the one question (there may be more, such as does God exist? )that is still legitametly in the realm of philosophy and theology. Paul G's. work on free will is what drew me into this exchange in the first place, plus the interest in what exactly separates us from the animal kingdom. At this point I don't believe that there is anything that separates us from the state of nature (other animals) except a mistaken idea that humans are somehow special. So we think, or even think about thinking, or explore our universe and learn things about it. We could just be a point along the path of evolution eventually to be thought of by those who follow us as no more than jellyfish. But we humans have done serious damage to the environment by believing ourselves to be outside of nature and masters of nature. We have pulled the rubberband taunt and when it snaps back, it will do so with a vengence. If I have upset you with my simplicity, well I apologize and shall refrain from commenting upon your obviously superior intellectual and scientific musings. Your truly, Laura
Name: E. W. Artzman
Username: mred2000@erols.com
Subject: Clarity
Date: Thu Dec 18 11:23:45 EST 1997
Comments:
I am a little surprised that Dr. Ghitis would be attacking Willard Quine (Dec. 17, ghitis@stsr.net.il)in connection with the subject of verbal clarity. After all, Quine is primarily known as a logician, not a philosopher in the classic sense and his writing is generally a model of clarity and precision. Of course, that brings up a problem with the "clarity of thought" approach. Those who are interested in clairty of thougth above all usually have nothing or little to say. And for that reason they don't seem very productive. They publish a lot but when all is said and done it does not mean that much and that may be Quine's downfall. Analytic philosophy also is a good case in point. It was significant only in what it rejected (i.e. most of the work of past philoshers), but it did not really have that much to say and it could be rated one of the most sterile and unproductive schools of thought since the 14th century and the time of the medieval Scholastics. Clear concise language only has a limited applicability in some of the most basic areas of science, physics, chemistry, and such like. It works out very clumsily in social sciences like economics, sociology, or history. It can be done but unfortunately it does not mean much. Endorsing it rather indiscriminately could even be considered rather naive. E. W. Artzman, Boston
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: DRUNK?
Date: Thu Dec 18 11:52:04 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: TO LAURA CODY and E.W. ARTZMAN


Date: Thu Dec 18 12:08:11 EST 1997
Comments:

Laura, glad to read your prompt reply. Please clarify why feeling insulted. Please post here or email, together with your CV for my information, if not too confidential. As posted yesterday, I will prepare a scientific reply to your questions.

E.W., good to have here a student or expert in Philosophy. I will also comment your post in detail, as scientifically, positivistically and analytically as possible. This sort of 'challenge' is very stimulating. Wish there were more like you and Laura.

Now I must prepare for a bridge duplicate. I feel that learning bridge analytically also stimulates the thinking neurons.

Cordialy toward both Laura and E.W.,

Jake


Name: Laura Cody
Username: lecody@ktc.com
Subject: Clear writing
Date: Thu Dec 18 21:07:27 EST 1997
Comments:
I shall not insult your intelligence by trying to explain why I felt insulted, it is, as you know, purely a subjective feeling, one I chose to feel. I may not have the education that you or Paul or even Mr. Artzman, but I am not ignorant either, had you been reading the correspondence in serendip between Paul and myself you would have know that I was an undergraduate majoring in philosophy. True, I am not studying philosophy to any great depth because I am basically just interested in receiving a BA degree. If I can be said to have any serious philosophical interest it is in ethics. However I still dislike obscure writing it is unnecessary. Using 50 or 100 dollar words where 20 dollar words would do is no more than intellectual snobbery. I once asked a professor exactly what Barth was saying. Talk about obsure writing! He told me that Barth could be broken down to this, "Jesus loves me, this I know". Now in this intance I would have to say that Barth had nothing new to say and was just trying to impress his fellow theologians and anyone else that is masochistic enough or forced to read him. It may be a case of publish or perish, so the more intellectual one sounds the less meat one needs in the paper. Feel free to correct my me if I am totally mistaken about this, but I do not think that I am. I must also write me, and one thing I have discovered about myself is that I write the best when I break a theory down to the lowest level that I can. You may find that insulting to have what you say rewritten on an 8th grade level, but if you are at all interested in reaching people that is where you must write. Even Stephen Hawking realized that. Know any other physicists(sp) who are or have been on the best selling lists on both sides of the Atlantic? I guarantee that is exactly why he is so popular. True some theories cannot be made simple, but if it is possible then it should be done, unless of course you are trying to keep the club closed to the uninitiated. If that is the case then perhaps you are part of the group that makes science scary to the majority of people because they cannot understand the scientific gobbledy goop. This is something we do not need, we need science to be understandable, because if anything is going to save the human race from it's environmental disasters, it will have to be the scientific community, but if we fear you because we can't understand you than we will not let you (scientists) do anything without a fight. Now as to your alcohol theory. Again, being a layman, I must speak and write simply. I understand that liver is a complex organ, performing many functions, some independent of each other. If the liver is damaged so that it cannot process ethanol as quickly as a healthy liver, will those brain things have more alcohol to deal with?, if so, is it possible for them to be overwhelmed to such a degree that impairment of the body's reactions are compromised in those instances where the liver is damaged, and another individual of the same weight/height imbibing an equivilent amount and having a healthy liver that takes care of most of the ethanol, not overwhelming those brain things to such a degree that one can be legally drunk and still be in command of one's reflexes. Sorry, a little convoluted, but is there anyway for medical science to ascertain this, possibly clearing persons of DWI's whose reflexes are not impaired by alcohol. In other words is it possible that the driver of Di's vehicle, inspite of having drunk a considerable amount of alcohol, could have been in control of his reflexes to the same degree of a person who was sober? Could it be proven? And do we really want to complicate the issue of drunk driving by this information? Laura Cody lecody@ktc.com or marty.t@usa.net
Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Language, clear or not
Date: Fri Dec 19 09:46:09 EST 1997
Comments:
Hmmmmm. Pleased to have you all around and, as usual, think you're all right, in one way or another ... or, more serendipishly, not wrong.. I've been thinking a lot about language recently, because of a freshman seminar course I've been involving in teaching this semester. A relevant thought here is that language servss (at least) two different functions. One is to convey information/attitude/perspective as unambiguously as possible. The other, somewhat paradoxically, is to convey the same things with a fairly high degree of ambiguity. The former is valuable for exploring the logical implications of a particular set of information/attitudes/perspectives. The latter is equally valuable as a way of eliciting from others information/attitudes/perspectives different from one's own. And as the best approximation one can give, at any given time, to an as yet not logically codified (perhaps logically uncodifiable) set of information/attitudes/perspectives.

To put it all differently, Jake was (as I see it) worrying about language as it is used for one function. Laura was using it for a quite different (and equally valuable) one, as EW pointed out. Needless to say, Serendip is an appropriate place for both kinds of language use. Indeed, it is the interplay between the two that is essential to progressively getting things less wrong. Being as precise as one can be makes clear the limitations of one's current understanding, both of what's going on and of the words and concepts one uses to try and make sense of it (Janke's alcohol piece is an illustration). Being less precise is essential to conveying/collecting the the additional information/attitudes/perspectives from which one might become less wrong.

None of this, of course, is an excuse for either being deliberately obscure nor for intellectual snobbery. Larua's right (and I think Jake would agree) that its terribly important not to convey a sense of creating "a club closed to the initiated". Science (and philosophy) need, as I see it, to be comprehensible to everyone, for the reasons Laura gives as well as two others. Science (and philosophy) NEED the additional perspectives and insights of people who are neither professional scientists nor professional philosphers. And, following Laura's thought, I'm never sure I really understand or believe or think significant a formal argument or line of evidence UNTIL I can give it in language that is comprehensible to anyone. Invariably, in trying to make it so, I discover new understandings myelf (I suspect this is part of why Hawking, and others, write the books they do).

So let's all keep working on it. All of it. Alcohol (yep, the more biology one understands, the less certain some things become). Differences between humans and other organisms (not as great ss many people think). And the meaning of meaning (language as both summarizer and explorer).


Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: META-THINKING
Date: Fri Dec 19 16:18:04 EST 1997
Comments:

The text is available in Serendipia.


Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: ALCOHOL
Date: Sat Dec 20 09:27:05 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: Jacob ghitis,MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: LANGUAGE, CLEAR OR NOT
Date: Sat Dec 20 10:03:12 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: Jacob Ghitis,MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: CLEAR LANGUAGE
Date: Sun Dec 21 16:41:51 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: E. W. Artzman
Username: mred2000@erols.com
Subject: Clarity More Clearly Defined
Date: Tue Dec 23 02:05:58 EST 1997
Comments:
Actually I would rather talk more about the effects of alcohol on the brain but, since Dr. Ghitis brought the verbal clarity issue up again, let me say this much: All rational thought is inherently ambiguous but in some cases the ambiguity is trivial or simply below the level of human notice. Why is this true? Well, one might say that the only way that the human mind/brain can know reality is by way of sense perception, seeing, touching, tasting, etc. But sense perception never tells us what IS the case for all time. It can only tell us how things APPEAR at this moment in this context, etc. Therefore to achieve any significant results the mind/brain must smear hundreds and thousands of various sense perceptions together to form meaningful concepts, concepts that are good for more than one context or one moment of time. And the brain (that is all that the mind is) must then look for GENERAL details that are in all these percepts or can be found in most of them. The end result is a kind of vague smear instead of a crisp clear outline, but at least it will be significant. It will be useful and applicable to more than one empirical circumstance at a time.

Now in the mono-chromatic sciences where only simple structures are dealt with it is still possible to be fairly precise in one's formulations and still be modestly significant. After all, in physics for instance (the archetype of what I would call a mono-chromatic science) every electron in the universe is exactly alike and so is every proton or neutron. Once you have detected an attribute of one electron, you have detected an attribute of them all. So as long as you confine yourself solely to the verifiable attributes of electrons, it is still possible to say something useful about this one limited subject in fairly clear form.

But in the population sciences no two individuals are exactly alike and even people who outwardly do the very same thing often have different motives for their overt behavior. So in the population sciences like economics, sociology, history, etc. rigorous precison is only possible at the most insanely trivial level of observation. One can talk about how many times the average slave was whipped per year as recorded in the diaries and journals of white slave-owners in the south from 1800 to 1860 but one cannot talk about the conditions of slavery or the other sources of humiliation and exploitation. Humiliation has no rigorous structure or format; nor does exploitation. One cannot even rigorously define how accurate or inaccurate a white slave owner's diary might be! So the rest has to be generalized and inferred through more shadowy and ambiguous intuitions. That is simply the way that the population sciences must be if they are to remain significant.

Perhaps the best proof of this assertion, however, would be Rudolf Carnap's The Logical Syntax of Language, for Carnap was one of the founding members of the Vienna Circle and the Logical Positivist movement Dr. Ghitis admires. But in his book L.S.of L. Carnap decides that all meaningful verbal symbols have to be abandoned and only purely formal symbols devoid of all conventional meanings can be used, for conventional meanings are always messy and ambiguous. They interfere with pure logic; so Dr. Carnap, ever the pure logician, dispenses with them entirely. That, however, is why I say that the positivistics were significant for what they denied (traditional metaphysics) but they really had nothing to put in its place, only a pure and sterile logic. It doesn't really make more sense than the older stuff, but it is more precise and logical. Big whoppee.

And that is only the surface of this issue; it gets much more complicated than that. But don't you wish I had stuck to the effects of alcohol on the brain? I suggest that in the future that would be a more useful topic.


Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: THINKING AND THE MYSTERY OF GOD
Date: Tue Dec 23 09:47:36 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: Jacob Ghitis, MD
Username: ghitis@star.net.il
Subject: ON UNAMBIGUITY
Date: Mon Dec 29 17:02:41 EST 1997
Comments:
The text is available in Serendipia.
Name: Jacob Ghitis,MD
Username: ghitis@star.net
Subject: ON VERBAL CLARITY
Date: Tue Dec 30 17:13:18 EST 1997
Comments:

ON VERBAL CLARITY

To E.W. ARTZMAN

On Dec 23 1997 you wrote:


Since Dr. Ghitis brought the verbal clarity issue up again, let me say this much: All rational thought is inherently ambiguous, but in some cases the ambiguity is trivial or simply below the level of human notice.

Ed, as you point out yourself, I was referring to verbal clarity, not to thinking, whether rational or else. I have explained here in Serendip that thinking can be autistic, realistic non-creative or creative. However, for the sake of constructive dialogue, let's continue.

Why is this true? Well, one might say that the only way that the human mind/brain can know reality is by way of sense perception, seeing, touching, tasting, etc. But sense perception never tells us what IS the case for all time. It can only tell us how things APPEAR at this moment in this context, etc. Therefore to achieve any significant results the mind/brain must smear hundreds and thousands of various sense perceptions together to form meaningful concepts, concepts that are good for more than one context or one moment of time. And the brain (that is all that the mind is) must then look for GENERAL details that are in all these percepts or can be found in most of them. The end result is a kind of vague smear instead of a crisp clear outline, but at least it will be significant. It will be useful and applicable to more than one empirical circumstance at a time.

I am able to grasp the idea of what you wrote above, but this subject is without my area of dialog. I cannot see the use for that within the frame of this Serendip site. We cannot be that exclusive. Our exclusivity is determined by the availability of a computer attached to the Internet, plus the person's interest in a pleasant site dealing with philosophical aspects that do not offer an immediate nor a remote pragmatic benefit. Suffice that they provide food for thought, perhaps helping somehow to easing the uncertainty inherent in negotiating the perilous curves that pop up in the course of life.
Our posts might serve as warning and guiding signposts.

Now in the mono-chromatic sciences where only simple structures are dealt with, it is still possible to be fairly precise in one's formulations and still be modestly significant.

Monochromatic sciences? You mean non-anthropologic, i.e, not dealing with phenomena resulting from the presence of man on Earth's crust?

After all, in physics for instance (the archetype of what I would call a mono-chromatic science) every electron in the universe is exactly alike and so is every proton or neutron. Once you have detected an attribute of one electron, you have detected an attribute of them all. So as long as you confine yourself solely to the verifiable attributes of electrons, it is still possible to say something useful about this one limited subject in fairly clear form.
But in the population sciences no two individuals are exactly alike and even people who outwardly do the very same thing often have different motives for their overt behavior. So in the population sciences like economics, sociology, history, etc. rigorous precision is only possible at the most insanely trivial level of observation....

Again, this is not my turf. I deal with clear, concise, alethic, unambiguous language. Therefore I delete your following paragraph, and continue with:

...Carnap was one of the founding members of the Vienna Circle and the Logical Positivist movement Dr. Ghitis admires.

I really do not 'admire' nor follow any thinker's ideas. Descartes himself, when advising not to follow blindly any 'authority's dictums, included himself as a target of that negative advice. I am ecumenical, adding to the ideas I accept, some of my own.

... Carnap decides that all meaningful verbal symbols have to be abandoned...

I am familiar with the names of many thinkers, yet I have read very little of their original creations, contenting myself with the analytic reading of extracts. That's why I am exempted from learned discussions. I believe that the majority of people with intellectual curiosity must content themselves with such an approach to educated information. What I consider necessary to stress is that, if we wish Serendip's forums to become an interesting site, clarity of language and a certain originality of thought are required.

Off-line writing and editing of posted concise contributions are practically a sine-qua-non.





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