“The most complex puzzle for humans and also the simplest, most self-evident fact”

“The most complex puzzle for humans and also the simplest, most self-evident fact” May 24, 2021



But first:


Go get 'em!
This is an encouraging sign.


From the distributor who is overseeing the rollout of our film:


“Wow! Thank you! Due to incredible demand Megaplex Theatres has added a third showing of Witnesses Film on June 2nd! Walk the red carpet. See it first with cast and filmmakers. Hear behind-the-scenes stories involved with the making of Witnesses Film — the Movie Event of the Summer! Hurry to secure your tickets at…


In this connection, Dallin Redd has kindly given me permission to share this image of a type-written page in his family’s history.  It concerns Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, who is portrayed in the forthcoming Interpreter Foundation movie Witnesses by Lincoln Hoppe (shown in the background of the image above, looking sideways to the left):


Dallin Redd shared this with me
Image courtesy of Dallin Redd




Richmond VA from the James River
A view of the skyline of Richmond, Virginia, from the James River, which, further along its course, gave its name to the early Virginia colony known as Jamestown

(Wikimedia Commons)


My wife and I spent the past eight days or so in Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia.


(I’ve decided not to include the “posted from x” attributions anymore while I’m away from home in x; I have too many malevolent loons zealously scouring this blog every day for things that they can weaponize against me, and I wouldn’t put invading my house or damaging my property altogether beyond at least a few of them.  They’re not overly scrupulous.  For instance, one recently published a letter in a major Israeli newspaper under the name of a close friend of mine, in which my friend supposedly denounced me as a long-time anti-Semite and an enemy of Israel — thus positioning me, more or less, in the same league and moral class with Hamas and the Nazis.  I consider that a very serious slander.)


I’m not an especially emotional or sentimental person, but saying goodbye to loved ones for what we know will be a fairly prolonged absence is always painful even to me, despite the fact that I have every reasonable confidence that I will see them again and before terribly long.  This fact, I think, helps to make sense of the fact that even strong believers in a life beyond death and in heavenly reunions still cry at the passing of loved ones.  Their mourning by no means proves them hypocritical or faithless.


More or less on that subject, I now share with you some passages that I marked during my recent reading of Bruce Greyson, After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2021).  You may perhaps recall that Dr. Greyson is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, which is located in Charlottesville.  (I was in Charlottesville just last Thursday.). Prior to joining the faculty at Virginia, he taught at the medical schools of the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut, and he is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.


Your own consciousness is both the most complex puzzle for humans and also the simplest, most self-evident fact.  (115)


Scientists and philosophers agree that, as philosophy professor Alva Noë put it, “After decades of concerted efforts on the part of neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers, only one proposition about how the brain makes us conscious — how it gives rise to sensation, feeling, subjectivity — has emerged unchallenged: we don’t have a clue.”

Physicist Nick Herbert put the problem this way:  “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness.  It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all.  About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”  (117-118)


The dirty secret of neuroscience is that we have no idea how a physical event like electrical current or a chemical change in a nerve cell can produce consciousness.

Saying that “the mind is what the brain does” is like saying “making music is what a musical instrument does.”  Musical instruments do produce musical sounds — but not by themselves.  It takes something outside the instrument — a musician — to decide what sound to make and to make the instrument produce that sound.  To quote Alva Noë again:  “Instruments don’t make music or produce sounds.  They enable people to make music or generate sounds. . . .  The idea that consciousness is a phenomenon of the brain, the way digestion is a phenomenon of the stomach — is as fantastic as the idea of a self-playing orchestra.”  (118)


The association between the mind and the brain is a fact.  But the interpretation that the brain creates the mind is not a scientific fact.  It’s only a theory developed to explain the association.  And for everyday life, that is a workable model — it’s convenient to act as if our brains do create our minds.  But there are additional scientific findings that suggest there’s more to the story.  It turns out that the connection between mind and brain breaks down under exceptional circumstances, like near-death experiences.  (118-119)


More than a decade ago, I participated in a symposium at the United Nations on alternative models for the mind and brain.  Since then, a survey of two hundred fifty Scottish university students from eight different fields (86 percent of them various sciences) found that two-thirds believed that the mind and the brain are two separate things.  A similar survey of almost two thousand Belgian medical professionals found that the majority believed the mind and brain are two separate things.  And a recent survey of more than six hundred Brazilian psychiatrists found that the majority believed the mind was independent of the brain.  An increasing number of scientists around the world are finding that the old model — the mind being totally dependent on the brain — is inadequate.  (123-124)


That’s something to think about.  If, that is, you’re the kind of person who is inclined to think.



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