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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Molecules Of Emotion

Watching What The Bleep reminded me of a really good book I read a couple of years ago: The Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine by Candace Pert. It is an autobiography but it is also introduces the scientific ideas in an easy to understand way.

I found the book very interesting for several reasons:
a) The subject matter is inherently fascinating to me: that neuropeptides might be responsible for our emotions and might form the interface between mind and body. It was a nice easy introduction ot the topis, and besides I just like neuroscience.

b) It was an interesting account of a woman scientist in a male dominated world and the obstacles she came up against.

c) Candace's journey from hard science to hard science with a spiritual edge.

d) It was a peek into the world of drug companies and money above health, which I must admit lines up with my previously conceived ideas about bad drug companies only wanting to make money and wanting to keep/make people sick so as to continue making money (well that's what I would do if money was the only thing that mattered and I was a drug company).

I'd review the book properly, but it was a while since I read it and my copy is out in the wild somewhere. Actually, it is not in the wild, it is just visiting with someone and I can't remember who. If it's you, I'd like it back soon. Ta.

So she's embracing mind-body duality? That "mind" can't actually be part of the body but is non-physical (not subject to actual scientific inquiry) and needs some kind of "interface" to the body? Like Descartes' pineal gland? Actually, the idea that "mind" is something non-physical doesn't really hold up under scrutiny. Perhaps a blog article is in order...
Yes, I would be interested to hear why you think the mind as something non-physical doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

I think things holding up to scrutiny depends on the type of scrutiny you subject it to. I subject lots of things to the "does it feel right" type of scrutiny.

I have never thought about the mind being physical before but my first reaction is everything is physical. Perhaps the mind is a different physical from the body.
Ok, here's my (incompetent) explanation for why the non-physical mind doesn't work:

If we call the mind "non-physical", then that means it is undetectable by physical means (otherwise it would be physical). However, the mind does control something physical -- the body. So even though we have defined it as non-physical, what it *does* is specifically physical, so the non-physical mind is self-contradictory. The same would really apply to any definiton of "physical" where the mind could control the body but be otherwise undetectable.

From what I've read, the idea of the mind being something other than processes in the brain doesn't really seem to work. I've read several times the book "Consciousness Explained" by philosopher Daniel Dennett (heartily recommended), and he has given much philosophical and scientific justification for the "feeling" I have that the mind can't be anything other than processes distributed around the brain.
"Consciousness Explained" described at Wikipedia
Hey David,

I am a little confused about the definition of physical and non-physical, which means I can't really think about the other stuff I guess.

Ignoring that major limitation for the moment:

Why can't something non-physical control something physical?
I told you my explanation would be incompetent. :)

"Non-physical" would defined as: not composed of matter or energy, taking up no physical space, and (especially) undetectable by any mechanism. Anything that's made of matter or energy, or occupies space, or is detectable is, by definition, physical.

Now if we define "non-physical" as undetectable, then it's a contradiction to say that something undetectable (the non-physical mind) can control the body, since then the body (which is physical) is actually detecting the mind through the actions the mind is causing the body to enact.

I think.
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