So, I said earlier that humanity’s penchant to evaluate ideas more on their degree of acceptance rather than innate merit is very much the way in which brain cells work. Let me attempt to defend that claim.
First off, is this how the brain actually works? I had a friend once who was the first person I heard challenge conventional thinking about the brain. At the time, conventional thought on the brain held that 90% was, essentially, being held in reserve. The mantra was that we only used 10% of our brain and, therefore, we could magnify our ability to think about problems if just we accessed that other 90%. Bob–I wrote about him last month–observed sardonically that what they really meant was that we didn’t know what 90% of the brain does.
To tell the truth, Bob’s observation was so obviously more correct than conventional wisdom that I have paid little or no attention to the “experts” on this topic since. So I don’t know what the conventional wisdom today is.
But does the brain take some sort of majority vote before it reaches a decision? I think so.
Everything from whether to have eggs at breakfast to whether to commit suicide calls for a decision, and some are more important than others, but few are clear cut. Some part of our being, probably in the brain or one of our glands, such as the pituitary, must be the decision maker, and there has to be a mechanism by which decisions are made. This mechanism appears to vary a lot even for just one of us, although we usually have our favorites, and each state, such as emotion, appears to influence the weight each consideration has at the time. But at some level each brain cell must have an understanding that its input is only some part of a report to the decision maker and that the final decision may well not go the way that the one cell wants.
Maybe this is at the heart of why I find it so difficult to communicate my thoughts on many issues, this one included. I think of virtually everything that is living as capable of perceiving things form its surroundings and reacting in differing ways depending largely upon that perception.
In this formulation, the main difference between a cell and the creature composed of many such similar cells is one of scale: when one breaks a multicellular creature into its parts, each has the same capabilities and potentials as the whole. In my way of thinking, the brain cells each operate, essentially, as each of us operates within our own little realm as an individual. The organ we call our brain is like a corporation in which many of us work. In so doing we each have an opportunity to influence the decision reached by the corporation, but the input that each of us makes may, or may not, be consistent with the final decision. Others, from marketing, to public relations, to cost-benefit analysis, have their input too. The higher-ups, about whom we know little, make the decision. We just make recommendations based upon our view.
I have no solid bases for such a way of looking at it, but that is how I look at it, mainly because it gives me a way to make it have the appearance of a sensible system.
So, for example, I think of individual cells having desires, just as I think of individuals as having desires. The fairest way I can imagine for a brain to make a decision is through some sort of a polling process that attempts to bring all considerations of the many cells of the body into the decision.
In our own brains, I think some cells are better at understanding things than others. So each cell has its degree of expertise and its field of speciality, just like each of us as individuals do. In making decisions, then, one of the considerations the decision-maker should keep in mind is whether the point under discussion is even reasonable. Deciding on that issue probably should be a matter of looking to see if other “experts” in the speciality regard it as reasonable.
So, there is a very reasonable expectation for that kind of test to be central to our evaluation process. My problem here is that I think so many of us axiomatically assume nothing we can do will kill gaia. That axiom makes a great deal of what I consider most important beyond the realm of consideration. Since scientists are inclined to be enmeshed in the center of those who adopt this axiom, I may be regarded as “fringe,” whether there is merit in my ideas or not.