Tuesday, December 09, 2003

NYT Review: Neuroscience and the nature of humankind

Humanity? Maybe It’s in the Wiring
The body, it turns out, is as important as the brain. Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Iowa Medical Center and the author of the book 'Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain,' has pioneered the argument that emotions and feelings are linked to brain structures that map the body. From human social emotions, he said, both morality and reason have grown.

In 1980 I remember Armando Howard, then my Caltech roommate, expounding at length on this thesis, that the brain "thinks" with the body.

This is an amazing summary of the latest thinking in neuroscience, most of it new in the past 10 years. It is also a stunning triumph of reductionism. Consciousness and behavior seem less emergent, and more a result of relatively well cirumscribed modules, than some had expected. More like something that could be emulated in software.

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