In The Instrumentality of the Brain, we noted a boy born without a cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls motor skills, balance and emotions — and who “has the MRI of a vegetable”; yet who has learned to walk and interact. He is also missing his pons, the part of the brain stem that controls basic functions, such as sleeping and breathing. And yet he breathes and sleeps just fine.
Other cases are known, such as the French civil servant, whose brain was virtually absent, reduced to a thin layer around the skull, a condition known as Dandy-Walker syndrome. Pause here for jokes about civil servants. Or Frenchmen. But he functioned more or less normally in society despite having water where his brain should have been.The British neurologist John Lorber reported on the case of a slightly hydrocephalic math student with an IQ of 126, who also was almost lacking in brains (cf. Is the brain really necessary).
The current sexy thing among the cognoscenti is the use of fMRI to “prove” that there is no free will, a topic which, for some reason seems to obsess the likes of Jerry Coyne. Or at least the brain atoms collectively known as Jerry Coyne. It seems that at least some of these folks believe that by attacking free will, they are attacking religion; but they are actually attacking humanism.
Read the whole thing. Amazing stuff.