Wednesday, July 20, 2005


What are we to make of so much information which shows us that our deepest beliefs and feelings, our core selves, are made up of bits of wiring in the brain called synaptical systems?

The following is from the book, A BRIEF TOUR OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS, by V.S. Ramachandran:

"So, what really causes Capgras syndrome?* To understand this disorder, you have to first realize that vision is not a simple process. When you open your eyes in the morning, it's all out there in front of you and so it's easy to assume that vision is effortless and instantaneous. But in fact within each eyeball, all you have is a tiny distorted upside-down image of the world. This excites the photoreceptors in the retina and the messages then go through the optic nerve to the back of your brain, where they are analyzed in thirty different visual areas. Only after that do you begin to finally identify what you're looking at. Is it your mother? Is it a snake? Is it a pig? And that process of identification takes place partly in a small brain region called the fusiform gyrus—the region which is damaged in patients with face blindness or prosopognosia. Finally, once the image is recognized, the message is relayed to a structure called the amygdala, sometimes called the gateway to the limbic system, the emotional core of your brain, which allows you to gauge the emotional significance of what you are looking at. Is this a predator? Is it prey which I can chase? Is it a potential mate? Or is it my departmental chairman I have to worry about, a stranger who is not important to me, or something utterly trivial like a piece of driftwood? What is it?

"In David's case, perhaps the fusiform gyrus and all the visual areas are completely normal, so his brain tells him that the woman he sees looks like his mother. But, to put it crudely, the "wire" that goes from the visual centers to the amygdala, to the emotional centers, is cut by the accident. So he looks at his mother and thinks, "She looks just like my mother, but if it's my mother why don't I feel anything toward her? No, this can't possibly be my mother, it's some stranger pretending to be my mother." This is the only interpretation that makes sense to David's brain, given the peculiar disconnection."

*Capgras syndrome is a condition in which a patient can recognize some person familiar to herself (like one's own mother) but believes the person is an impostor.


We’ve heard so much about the healing power of prayer that I think we need to finally prove the efficacy of prayer in a real way. Prayer needs its day in court. The only test that would be legitimate, I think, would be to take 100 lung cancer patients and divide them in half. Fifty of the patients will receive standard medical treatment while the other 50 will try prayer only. They must be true born again believers too and volunteers. Then we can see clearly how the results come out. Will fifty born again, true believing evangelicals please step forward?


A goodly part of this week's U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT (June 20 2005) is given over to a report on China, it's mighty growth. A time is coming when they, still socialist, will surpass America's capitalistic output.

Then there is health. In a recent NEWSWEEK SPECIAL ISSUE on health (Summer, 2005), we discover that science is close to solving hundreds of health problems, yet in America, according to The Institute of Medicine, 18,000 Americans die every year for lack of health coverage. Further, America "ranks 46th in life expectancy (behind Japan, Singapore, Canada and virtually all of Europe and Scandinavia)". Forty-one countries (including the hated Cuba) have achieved lower infant mortality rates.

What's wrong with this picture? Perhaps we need to listen less to those right leaning religious politicians who promise us heaven in heaven but do nothing about the hell on earth some Americans experience on a daily basis. And if you look closely at the countries who lead us in health science and economic growth, you'll see that most of them are what righty Bushites call "socialistic" nations. But perhaps America does still lead the world, does lead the world in going backward to the 19th century when things were really bad for the average bloke.

"The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots." —Rebecca West (Now there's a totally unbiased evaluation of the difference between the sexes.)

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