In March of 1999, an e-mail was received from a born-of-the-spirit Christian by a listserve of which I am a member. The letter informed all members of the group of their impending doom, asked why we were atheists, and invited responses.
My response was generic, informing him that I am an atheist because the idea that I am animated by a spirit that would report to a superspirit for reassignment to heaven, hell, or recycling was insupportable. I invited his opinion of my website.
He declined a visit to my site, but offered to give me reasons to believe in spirits. His e-mail, and my response to him follows. His e-mail, except his name, is here in full, in bold print. My response, also in full, is in plain text.
The first major scientist in the functioning of the brain and spinal cord, was Sir Charles Sherrington. After 1935 he began his research into mind-body relationship ( His book Integrated Action of the Nervous System). He began as a strict monist, and at the end of some 20 years of research was 'just not sure'. His work in the nervous system and its interactions with the brain was continued by his two lead students- Wilder Penfield and Sir John Eccles. Penfield was a pioneer in the use of electrode stimulation of the brain. He would keep his pateints fully conscious and stimulate various portions of the brain until he found the damaged tissue during epileptic treatment.
These experiments gave rise to what Penfield termed 'double
consciousness'- the patient was fully aware of the hospital setting
and his actions yet was 'reliving' the memories stored in the
stimulated portions of the brain. Decades of analyzing the
interactions between what was happening in the life of the patient
IN THE LAB and what the BRAIN ITSELF was producing under
stimulation... His end of life account of his research (book:The
Mystery of the Mind) had this obserbvation:
I conclude that there is no good evidence, in spite of new method, such as the employment of stimulating electrodes, the study of conscious patients, and the analysis of epileptic attacks, that the brain can alone carry out the work that the mind does. I conclude that it is easier to rationalize man's being on the basis of two elements than on the basis of one. (pg 113)
This was not a religious fanatic... this was a hardcore scientist, whose experiments led him, reluctantly, to abandon a purely materialist position.
I don't get your point...the brain stores information in (and operates body parts from) multiple locations in the brain (see Churchland, Neurophilosophy p.203; Crick, Astonishing Hypothesis p.89). It should be expected that stimulation of one part of the brain would evoke memories or movements while other parts of the brain continue to function normally, producing this "Double Consciousness". I would think this phenomenon, if problematic, would be mentioned by neuroscientists who hold the mysterian point of view against those neuroscientists who hold the reductionist view, but I was unable to find such evidence in my, admittedly cursory, look.
If you mean to highlight the quotes...I can only say that neuroscience is a growing and changing field. What is thought to be so today won't necessarily be thought to be so next month. The only point I can draw from this is that my belief that mind-brain identity will eventually rule the day over the duality theory is faith based, not fact based, and I should be more careful. A lesson in humility for me.
That the soul or mind is able to exert some kind of electrical foce on the brain is making serious headway in the neurosciences. H.H. Kornhuber ("Cerebral Cortex, Cerebellum, and Basal Ganglia: An introduction to their motor functions" in The Neurosciences, MIT 1973) documents the discovery of the existence of electrical potentials generated in the cerbrall cortex FOLLOWING the exercises of will to action and PRIOR to the actual performance of motor activity! Between the conscious act of will and the activity resulting from it, he consistently observed a measurble interval lasting for a few seconds or less. Extreme care was taken to exclude all possible triggering stimuli. Kornhuber was able to documment that a 'prep' stage of motor readiness was induced in all cases where the will was being exercised, but such a prep stage was NOT occuring when the motion was involuntary.
Again, I don't see the point. I was able to find mention of a 300msec delay and delays from 100 to 900 msec, not the several seconds you mention. The delay caused by the massive architecture of neurons, and the chemical (not elctrical) conduction by neurons, is, I'd think, expected. On the other hand, the autonomic nervous system, to be useful, should be better primed for action, that's what it's there for afterall.
Regarding Dr. Kornhuber, I was unable to find the particular work, but then I used a junior college library and a public library. But I did find references to his work, which seems to follow the subject of free-will, or will. Crick (Astonishing Hypothesis, pp. 265-68) discusses the possibility that the free will zone of the brain has been found and the effects of turning it off, by accidental damage, has been found too.
This is a little bit of evidence to why I believe in the existence of the soul.