The recent NY Times article "In Pursuit of a Mind Map, Slice by Slice"  is the traditional mind/body conundrum cast in contemporary terms.

Philosophers, scientists, theologians have debated this question even before Rene Descartes' 17th century dualism which separated mind from body (brain) into irreconcilable categories.

Scientists are often accused of reductionism.  They are breaking down the physical elements of the brain until they find what they are seeking–the mind.  Physicists do this as well with their high-energy atom smashers.

The problem is that they may never find what they are seeking.

Are you the sum total of all your individual pieces.  Are you no more than trillions of atoms which make up your physical structure?

Now I fully support scientific research, including the work that is being done to analyze the smallest piece of whatever can be detected.

I just question whether the answer will be found there.

When you try to put Humpty Dumpty's pieces back together–will it be him?

There seems to be something about the whole that defies an analysis of the parts.  This holistic  process of synthesis is also known as "emergence".  Something extraordinary happens when all the pieces of us come together and our mind's emerge from the abyss of neurons, neurotransmitters, axonal wiring etc. etc. It becomes us and it is constantly changing.

Some scientists would deem these sentiments naive.  According to their position, we speak in poetic terms about human consciousness/mind because we just don't understand exactly how the pieces fit together.

We still believe that mind exists in some sense as more than the brain.  We are foolish to listen to tales of  OOB (out of body) experiences in which mind functions and remembers when the brain is barely alive as equally foolish.

Yet we do have evidence that the actions of the mind can feedback and change the physical structure of the brain–neurofeedback, meditation have demonstrated this truth unequivocally.

So who is right?  The future may or may not hold the answer.

I applaud the search for the mind in the brain.  I just think it may not be found there.

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