Morality, once the playing field of theologians and philosophers, is now being given serious consideration by neuro-biologists.
Years ago, psychologist B. F. Skinner proclaimed that all behavior is simply a matter of stimulus and response. In his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity Skinner argued that there is no such thing as freedom or dignity or even ideas. It takes a cleverly written book to explain the idea that there are no ideas!
Now, half a century later and armed with very sophisticated knowledge of the brain, neuroscientists are returning to Skinnerism, though in a more detailed way.
I am very interested in studies of the mind and brain, though I do struggle a bit with the technical jargon. Certain questions remain for me, questions which seem important but tend to be ignored in the popularized science I am able to follow.
– If the brain is nothing more than billions of interconnected neurons, what causes one kind of stimulus, such as light, to go to one part of the brain than another?
– The same question in different form: What causes the electrical signals to follow one path than another?
– If I decide right now to raise my hand in a meaningless gesture, what has caused that?
– What is happening in my brain when I am trying to remember something?
– When one part of the brain is damaged and another assumes some or all of its functions, what causes the adaptation?
Can you offer me any help with such questions?
[Tomorrow: “Free will” in a mindless brain]