Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You are your brain. Let's get that out of the way before anything else.
Take it, Mr. Gervais:

I'm not about to allow this shiny new series to devolve into the "Oh weh weh what is mind?" and "What is the soul?" bullshit I had to put up with when I took philosophy. We are keeping this in the realm of the predictable, the investigate-able, and the testable. i.e. Science. Ya got that? Good. Now let me explain what I mean when I say "Your brain is an asshole."

You are made of meat, meat which has the unique ability of being able to think about itself, and think about itself thinking about itself, and think about itself thinking about thinking about itself... Zoom out a bit, and you are a method through which the universe experiences itself. That's pretty cool, but we're still thinking meat. Meat can get hurt, meat can change, and rot, and die, and that meat is what I'm referring to when I say your "brain is a jerk"; I'm personifying meat.

The brain which controls the actions of your body and the thoughts that make "you" is still meat which has been shaped by millions of years of evolution, and sometimes, the things that helped our ancestors to survive, can hurt us, sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes, if a trait isn't actually harmful to our chances of reproduction, weird stuff sticks around, not everything has a purpose.

Before we begin, you need to know the following:
  1. Neuroplasticity is a thing. Your brain can and does physically change in response to both chemical inputs as well as purely mental processes. If I cut your head open before and after you became a drug addict, for example, it would look different. Conversely, if I damage your brain, you will think and act differently. You aren't some shiny-glowing-ethereal-thing that lives behind your eyeballs and drives your body around. "You" are the direct result of how your brain is physically composed.
  2. What the brain looks like. Reality isn't color coded, and there aren't neat little designations between the different parts of your brain.
  3. How Synapses Work. We've already covered this. Go read it.


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