Savants and the Mysteries of Mind

I’ll comment at some later point on the book that led me to this topic – The God Theory by Bernard Haisch. In the book, Haisch brings up Savant Syndrome as evidence that the mind seems to be something that ‘shines through’ the brain rather than merely an epiphenomenon thereof. Or, as someone at the conference I attended in Romania put it, the brain is more like a radio than an Ipod. I am not persuaded, since I don’t feel as though Haisch does justice to the notion of emergent properties. But he is certainly right to draw attention to the remarkable mathematical abilities of someone like Daniel Tammet (who provides math answers without apparently needing to go through intermediate stages of calculation), or the musical abilities of someone like Leslie Lemke (who famously played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto after hearing it only once). Their abilities are evidence of just how mysterious the functioning of the human mind is to us, and how much it is capable of. I am reminded of how Commander Data’s “daughter” Lal on Star Trek: The Next Generation spontaneously developed emotion as a result of a “flaw” in her positronic brain.

Below is just one of a number of clips related to the phenomenon of Savant Syndrome on YouTube. Remarkable individuals such as these are a helpful reminder of how little we understand even about the workings of the very parts of us responsible for our very attempts to understand.


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