Thursday, May 26, 2005

Do I Detect Sarcasm?

Dawson Bethrick from Incinerating Presuppositionalism was kind enough to provide an interesting link in the comments section of my last entry. Israeli researchers literally discovered the physical part of the brain that detects sarcasm. Here is a snip.

Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Sarcasm Sensor

The region, according to the researchers, handles the task of detecting hidden meaning, a crucial component of sarcasm. If that part of the brain is out of commission, the irony doesn't come through, the scientists report in the May issue of Neuropsychology.

These findings agree with an earlier blog entry of mine, where I stated that "In reality, all aspects of your consciousness, from communication to observation to constructing concepts to even feeling life itself, are hopelessly dependent upon your physical brain." And now with this post, I have given further evidence of this material dependency by showing that even the ability to understand sarcasm is subject to this dependency.

If consciousness can exist independently of a physical brain, then why do we always find that consciousness is affected every time we experiment with, or damage, the material brain? People with pieces of their brain removed or damaged will even attest to no longer having the capability provided by the piece of the brain that was altered. Loss of mental ability, from personality, to reasoning/thought, to motor skills, have all been well documented, and correspond with the damage or altering to the relevant areas of the brain.

Some pro-afterlifers have told me that you get back all your consciousness when you die, but I contend that they got it backwards. I contend that the evidence we have shows that these functions of the mind are dependent upon material support, and that when you die, you clearly lose all of your consciousness; you don't get it all back. The only way to ever bring back the mental abilities that were lost when the brain was altered is to bring back the actual, physical, supporting structures that provided those mental abilities. If mental functions could exist without material support, then one's consciousness would not lose those functions when their brain is altered or damaged.


Andrea said...

There is a subject I'd like to see you blog on but I find no email address here.

I want to know what you think of allowing a young child to believe in Heaven and the afterlife to ease her grief and make death easier to accept. Her father was killed in a car accident almost a year ago. Her grandmother is now in the CCU and not expected to live more than another few days. She has been told that daddy went to Heaven. She has been told that grandma is going to Heaven. A bunch of atheists - myself included - are the ones guilty of telling her this. The reality just seems to cruel at her age. She is six. She was five when her father was killed.

Aaron Kinney said...

Thats a touchy subject. Shes very young, and she is raised in a culture where the norm is to believe in stories like these. To have her previous beliefs dashed at a time such as this may not be very nice, and may upset her. But in future instances (when shes a bit older), and in a context that doesnt involve her father, she can be told things like "there is no evidence for an afterlife" and "this existence is what counts," and other such statements.

Now, if the child grew up being told, and believing, that there is no afterlife, then it obviously isnt a big deal to let her know the truth. What is important in a situation involving a 6 year old girl's father's death, is to give the temporary worldview/emotional stability, which is, let her cope how she needs to cope, and that inlcudes allowing her already-held beliefs about heaven remain intact for the time being.

Shinsyotta said...

I recently attended a conference arranged by the Skeptics Society at Caltech. Much evidence was presented to suggest that consciousness is actually an illusion created by the brain and memes that it becomes infested with.

Aaron Kinney said...

Interesting. Care to explain "memes"?

And if consciousness is an illusion, is it still a materially dependent illusion?

Andrea said...

Thanks for your comments.

I see no real harm in it for now since the child also believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Perhaps she'll question religion when she finds out that those three beings were a lie.

breakerslion said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with conforming to these ideas (afterlife, Santa, etc.) when dealing with a small child in these situations. How many parents have said, "I'll never be like my parents!" and then, in the moment, reach down into that grab-bag of experience and find exactly what was placed there? Alternatives are often more difficult and confusing. Heaven persists as an idea because it is a simple paradigm for wish-fulfillment; "She's can't be dead, but she's not here." Academically, I would like to know what kind of society would result if imaginary beings were not a part of it. Santa and the Tooth Fairy, etc. are in a way a primer for believing in the Big Boojum (god).