Brain or Driver?
© 14 Jun 2011 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
other posts


Speculation about why we think as we do think.


Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Erin Reed and we discussed Mostly we talked about nonlinear regression and nonlinear solvers. But there is always room for other things as well… ☺ how different people think in different ways, commenting on her ability to recall details about people she knew a decade ago and my habit of noting down mathematical expressions in the margins of my scriptures. Within this conversation was born an interesting (to me) speculation: are these kind of traits built into the brain or are they due to habitual usage patterns?

This is kind of like the old nature/nurture false dichotomy, I suppose. Do I think in mathematics because my of what brain I got or because of how I’ve used that brain? But we talked of it in a different way: is it how our brains are now or how our spirits have become accustomed to driving our brains?

I frankly find this question much more interesting than nature vs. nurture. We are who we are, and how we got there is of little interest. But deconstruction of my motivations and habits has practical use: for example, knowing that when I crave ice cream that craving can be sated by eating fruit but can only be postponed by consuming ice cream has been practically useful. Knowing what portion of my thoughts comes from the soul, what from the neurons, and what from the chemical soup that is the remainder of my “‍mind‍” is an objective worthy of pursuit.

The mental aptitude question is an interesting case study here. Is my mind capable of storing dossier memories as Erin’s does? It is clear we have different brains, just as it is clear we drive different cars. But even if I were to drive her car I wouldn’t drive like she drives; and I expect that if my spirit were dropped into her cranium I’d drive her brain differently too. The question, then, is how much differently? Would I still see mathematics in scripture? Would she still be able to recall details about long-ago acquaintances?

I suspect there is no answer to these questions available to mortals; nor, indeed, do I expect to discover any interesting evidence.

Another question to leave unanswered; a new datum in the exploration of the boundaries of my knowledge.

Looking for comments…

Loading user comment form…