Neurosurgeon Says Slicing Through Thoughts is 'Bizarre'

#1
Famous neurosurgeon Dr Henry Marsh was recently put on the spot about consciousness and NDEs on the BBC news channel feature Hard Talk.
He agreed with the interviewer Stephen Sachur that the idea of drilling and sawing through memories and emotions contained in brain jelly was “utterly bizarre” and “too strange to understand”
But the idea of mind or soul separate from the brain he found ‘deeply improbable’
In case the link to the interview is not viewable outside the UK, I have transcribed the relevant portions.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06v2kqw/hardtalk-dr-henry-marsh

For those who can watch it – fast forward to 12mins 26secs

Dr Marsh was being quizzed about his book ‘Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’

Transcript....


SS Let me talk to you about the brain itself – this most amazing organ of ours.
It’s so complex and so mysterious in so many ways but you approach it sometimes with drills, saws, knives and suckers and there is something quite bizarre you’re involved in.


HM It is utterly bizarre. It’s something that when I was young I took for granted but as I get older I am more and more amazed by the fundamental mystery that everything you and I are thinking at the moment is electro-chemistry.
It doesn’t feel like electro-chemistry. It feels free and insubstantial but we are the product of electro-chemical activity in nerve cells.
And although I’m a complete believer in science with a capital S, what fascinates me is that with modern science we cannot even begin to explain how thoughts and feelings like consciousness arise. We just don’t know


SS Your career has spanned 35 years in brains. Are you telling me that in the 35 years you’ve learned very little more about how that electro-chemistry work, how thoughts and imagination work...?

HM It’s like saying we know how a brick is made but it doesn’t tell us anything about how the house was made by the brick.
So although there’s a huge amount of neuroscience going on, what really interests us as human beings, is ourselves, our feelings and consciousness.
And we can’t know that. And you can’t experiment on it either.

SS At one point you write about being struck with one operation, your sucker – the thing that you suck jelly out, ‘My sucker’s going through thought itself – through emotions...and that memory, reason and dreams consist of this jelly, is simply too strange to understand’


HM It’s the last great mystery...

SS How dare you suck out all this jelly when you could be sucking out people’s imaginations, thoughts or dreams?

HM Well the answer to that is that the illness you’re trying to treat is even worse than the operation.

(Few more unrelated questions then...)

SS On the philosophical side, you said to me ‘I’m a scientist – I believe in science with a capital S.
But you know for centuries, philosophers and scientific thinkers have posited the notion that in the end our mind, our soul is separate from the physical reality of this thing between our ears.
Are you telling me you are absolutely convinced there is no possibility of this being true?

HM I think it is highly unlikely (smiles) – deeply improbable..


SS The brain is everything?

HM The brain....but we don’t understand how the brain works and maybe we never will and I find that infinite mystery rather reassuring.
We all know the macrocosm of the Big Bang, all the stuff recently about the anniversary of Einstein’s relativity. Actually each of us is in our own heads. Our consciousness is as great a mystery as the Big Bang.


SS I’m sure you’ve read the science papers that address Near Death Experiences

HM Yes

SS...the notion that people credibly and under scientific conditions, can recollect experiences they’ve had when nominally the machinery has told us they are brain dead. You think that’s a mirage do you?

HM It’s a complicated area. Brain dead is rather different. Near Death Experiences are a well recognised phenomenon...

SS But they come out of the brain?

HM They are out of the brain – that’s what it comes down to..
 
#2
"That's a great interview, Psiclops well spotted. I've seen this chap interviewed before and I know his opinion on consciousness and the brain. First off, he's a really nice guy. Secondly, he's cocked up quite a number of operations so maybe those that were inclined to be critical of Eben Alexander will realise that ALL neurosurgeons make mistakes, this one has made far more than Alexander, as far as I can tell.

The interesting bit....he doesn't have a clue how the brain produces consciousness but although he says he is aware of the phenomenon of NDE, doesn't see any reason to regard them as occurring OUTSIDE the brain. Clearly, he has not read the literature because if you do you have only two choices.

Either NDE's occur when the brain isn't working (all the best cases we know of) or every case reported did not happen the way it was presented.

Also his assertion that when he's suctioning out areas of the brain, he's sucking out memories or cutting through memories has been shown to be wrong by Wilder Penfield's experiments. Penfield stimulated portions of the brain that needed to be resected (because of seizure) and his patients reported certain memories (from that stimulation). But when the area was removed, the patient could still remember those things. So memory has no location in the brain.

It doesn't bother me that Harry Marsh doesn't think it's possible for the mind to transcend the brain. He can't conceive of it because "that can't happen," or "doesn't know" how good the cases of OBE/NDE are, probably because of Blackmore and French etc. But he is no more better placed to make a judgement about consciousness than any of us laypersons, he simply hasn't got a clue. I'd love to shove some of the veridical OBE's under his nose and demand an explanation but I think he'd push them away without looking.......
 
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#3
he states that he doesnt know how the brain works while hes also stating that ndes are products of our brains? why does he believe that? how did he come to that coclusion if he doesnt know how the brain works? thats actually a bit of a contradiction there. its also always odd to me how people deem it highly impropable that there is more to the brain then just flesh and electricity while they are openly stating that they dont know how we are even conscious and other things like that.
 
#6
On the flip side -> Has anyone read Marjorie Hines Woollacott? -> she's a neuroscientist & her book Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind has a forward from NDE researcher Pim van Lommel.
Thanks... I've read Pims forward now...

Yes, my brain is not perfectly isolated from the world, common sense, and data shows that to be the case, thus my experiences cannot arise solely from my brain in the present.

That said, Pim still gets it very wrong in my view... he seems to sideline studies like Borjigin's. Ignores organisms and cells that function in space-time without any neurons at all (no EEG). Doesn't find any significance in visual sensory work like Ehrsson's, where we see displacement of the location of 'self'. Doesn't want to consider other plausible reasons why we get veridical type OBE's, but no hits on secret/hidden/realtime targets, or, why some experients sometimes learn private things about those around them during the period of their experience. Etc... Etc...
 
#7
On the flip side -> Has anyone read Marjorie Hines Woollacott? -> she's a neuroscientist & her book Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind has a forward from NDE researcher Pim van Lommel.
Judging by the glowing reviews on Amazon and the reaction here, it would seem that Marjorie Hines Woollacott would be an ideal person for Alex to interview.
How about it Alex?
PS Why is it that the best books cost so much? This one and Beyond Physicalism - another widely praised - stretches my budget a little....
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#9
Thanks... I've read Pims forward now...

Yes, my brain is not perfectly isolated from the world, common sense, and data shows that to be the case, thus my experiences cannot arise solely from my brain in the present.

That said, Pim still gets it very wrong in my view... he seems to sideline studies like Borjigin's. Ignores organisms and cells that function in space-time without any neurons at all (no EEG). Doesn't find any significance in visual sensory work like Ehrsson's, where we see displacement of the location of 'self'. Doesn't want to consider other plausible reasons why we get veridical type OBE's, but no hits on secret/hidden/realtime targets, or, why some experients sometimes learn private things about those around them during the period of their experience. Etc... Etc...
Has he ever taken a look at these studies and provided a refutation?

Judging by the glowing reviews on Amazon and the reaction here, it would seem that Marjorie Hines Woollacott would be an ideal person for Alex to interview.
How about it Alex?
PS Why is it that the best books cost so much? This one and Beyond Physicalism - another widely praised - stretches my budget a little....
Sadly a few of these are textbooks so end up costing a pretty penny since college students can be sunk into further debt by publishers. This one though I did find to be very expensive, especially for a Kindle book.

Haven't bought it yet but I probably will to support the consciousness community's Return of the Jedi moment. :)
 
#10
Has he ever taken a look at these studies and provided a refutation?



Sadly a few of these are textbooks so end up costing a pretty penny since college students can be sunk into further debt by publishers. This one though I did find to be very expensive, especially for a Kindle book.

Haven't bought it yet but I probably will to support the consciousness community's Return of the Jedi moment. :)
I think he had a pop at Borjigin's... but he's never responded to the rest.
 
#11
Has he ever taken a look at these studies and provided a refutation?



Sadly a few of these are textbooks so end up costing a pretty penny since college students can be sunk into further debt by publishers. This one though I did find to be very expensive, especially for a Kindle book.

Haven't bought it yet but I probably will to support the consciousness community's Return of the Jedi moment. :)
I've put (parts) of her book up for you, Sci above.
 
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