Of “meaning” and neurons

Of “meaning” and neurons April 8, 2018


Female brain, side view
(Wikimedia Commons)
Are we really just machines made of meat?


A thought experiment on the reduction of mind to brain, of thinking to neurochemistry, from Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016):


Imagine yourself seated inside a brain-imaging laboratory surrounded by complicated equipment, some of which is connected to you by means of wired probes stuck to your scalp and forehead.  You are fully conscious, not alarmed in the least by your surroundings, in no need of sedation (we can do this in a thought experiment).  In fact, you are calmly conversing with the brain scientist standing before you in his white lab coat.  You were thoroughly intimidated by him when you were escorted into the lab, but the conversation soon took such an amusing turn that all intimidation vanished.

“I’m still trying to pinpoint exactly what you mean when you say two,” he says with more than a hint of frustration.

“I keep telling you what I mean.  Two is the next whole number after one — one more than one.”

“Which is one more than none.”


“Yes, well, that all sounds very nice, but I can assure you that every one of your thoughts is nothing but a physical manifestation of the mass of neurons that sits inside your skull, and I can likewise assure you that I am recording and imaging absolutely everything going on in there — very expensive equipment this is, the very latest — and yet whenever I show you something on this display that looks very promising to meeee . . . youuuu keep insisting it is not at all what you mean by twoooo.  I might have overlooked this if we had fared any better with the other words we tried: circle, triangle, line, around, between, love, hate, true, false, one, and none.  But as things stand, I am beginning to think this whole exercise has been a colossal waste of time — my time, that is.  And no, I most certainly do not want to know what you mean by time!”

Do you see the problem?  The meaning we attach to these words is nowhere to be found in a person’s brain, or in any other physical location, for that matter.




Here’s an article that some of you might perhaps enjoy or find interesting:


“God Is the Supreme Scientist, Says Curator of BYU’s Museum of Paleontology”




Or how about this?


“California judge rules that coffee requires cancer warning”



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