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Author Topic:   Are Words in Your Brain?
Phat
Member
Posts: 7347
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 1 of 19 (490941)
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


This is the allowable non commercial reproduction of an article by
Gregory Koukl. I thought it to be interesting enough to start a thread.

STR writes:

Is there a YOU in there that is making your body happen?

I have in front of me the L.A. Times from January 24, 2000. It's a front-page article entitled "A Scalpel, a Life, and a Language." It's actually a rather phenomenal story about a man who had a brain tumor and they were attempting to remove the brain tumor without damaging his language capability.

They used the surgery for an opportunity to help map the brain out a little bit more because he was conscious during the procedure. The brain doesn't have any pain cells, you can't feel anything.

They mapped the brain by asking him questions, touching probes to his brain and checking his inability to recognize certain pictures. Then when they removed the probe, he could name the picture immediately. He actually recognized the picture but he couldn't think of the word of it. This allowed them to learn some things about how the brain interacts with the mind to produce language.

What's remarkable about this is that they got it wrong, frankly. It's a remarkable article. They conclude that the words are in the brain.

The article starts like this: "In every human thought and reflection, there is a word." By the way, that's controversial. If that's true, you can't think unless you have language. But the problem is, of course, how do you learn language without thinking about it before hand? It seems to me you've got to be able to think before you can learn something because learning is a process of thinking. And then you might learn words that help you to think in a more precise or specific way. But it doesn't strike me that you've got to have words in order to think because you would never be able to get started in the learning language process if that were the case.

In any event the article says, "In every human thought and reflection, there is a word. For Paul Sailor, the essence of all his words is concealed in the cells along the pastel furrow of brain tissue behind his ear just to the left of the surgeon's probe."

Just think about that statement for a moment. Do you think words are concealed in the tissue of your brain? Now if they were, then you should be able to cut around and find that noun or adjective, if the physical thing is stuck in your brain somewhere.

What this article does is highlight the tendency of taking all mental activities and trying to reduce them to physical things. In the field of neurophysiology the idea that one is a substantial soul that works with his body to produce language is archaic, is a folklore, a fairy tale. What we know now is that there is no soul, so they say. Time Magazine declared in a 1995 article that there is no soul. We don't know what consciousness is, but one thing we know is, it ain't a soul. There's no YOU in there that is making your body happen. The lights are on but nobody is home.

The reason they say (and this is almost an exact quote, I'm not making this up) scientists have been looking for the soul for 100 years and haven't been able to find it . The second reason: There is no space in the brain for it to fit. You think about that.

Do you think that if a soul really existed it would need any space to fit? The soul is not physical, so it needs no physical space. And if it did exist, you would not be able to find it with a physical instrument that is meant to measure only physical things. Of course, scientists can't find it. It isn't the kind of thing you can find with the scientific methodology. Why? Because scientific methodology was meant to measure physical things, not non-physical things like souls.

Of course, this isn't an argument for the soul. But it just goes to show that you can't disqualify the existence of the soul simply because science can't find it.

It's like going into a house and looking around for an invisible man. You come out and say, "You said there was an invisible man in your house. I went in there and looked all over, and I didn't see him anywhere. I looked under the bed, in the closet, in the attic in the basement. I looked everywhere and I didn't see him." Well, that is ridiculous because you don't find invisible men by looking for them in that way. They are invisible.

That's why it is misdirected to simply dismiss the existence of the soul because one can't find it with their physical instruments. Here is an article that assumes the soul doesn't exist, and that things like sentences and words and language are actually physical things that are in the brain somewhere. That's why they can say in the article, "For the first time neurobiology is revealing exactly where nouns, verbs, sentences, and the concepts they articulate are rooted in the brain." One has to just think about it for a few seconds to know there ain't no nouns in your brain.

By the way, there ain't no nouns on this piece of paper I am reading from. There's just ink shaped in a certain way. And the way the ink is shaped indicates that this ink shape on this page is referring to a noun that itself is not physical.

You know how I know nouns aren't physical? Because the noun "table" can be in a whole bunch of places at the same time. Physical things can't be that. You can have "table" in all kinds of different conversations, I could read it, I could speak it, I could put it on a CD disc. All these tokens, all these representative things, things that stand for nouns, can be everywhere. The nouns can attach themselves to these symbols very easily because they can be everywhere. Physical things can't be in more than one place at one time, therefore the nouns aren't physical. And you aren't going to find nouns by looking at the chemical content of this paper and this ink. Language is not physical and it ain't located in your brain.

There may be certain parts of your brain that are used by your soul in a cooperative unified relationship to produce language such that if some part of the physical stuff is gone awry, then you are not able to partner in the same way and make language or recognize language. There is certainly an interdependency between the soul and body. No doubt about that at all.

That's all this shows. This experiment demonstrates correlation. It doesn't demonstrate identity. It doesn't prove that the nouns, parts of speech, thoughts, and sentences are identical with stuff in your brain. They aren't the same thing.

This article was well written and is certainly food for thought. One thing that came to my mind is why the brains of people speaking different languages would be otherwise identical. Another philosophical issue to be pondered is what the impact of words are as pertaining to awareness and intelligence. Comments?

Edited by Phat, : fixed darn quote


Replies to this message:
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kuresu
Member (Idle past 1718 days)
Posts: 2544
From: boulder, colorado
Joined: 03-24-2006


Message 2 of 19 (490943)
12-10-2008 6:39 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


after a quick, precursory read, I have one thing to say. It seems as if his entire argument is based on a newspaper article about what is almost certainly a scientific paper.

I highly doubt that they would do this testing and not write a paper on it.

Now then, if there is a paper, why not go to it as your source? News articles on science are notorious for being slightly wrong or giving the wrong impression.

Think of the chain where one person whispers into someone's ear, and he passes it on. By the time it reaches the originator, the sentence is nothing like what he originally said. Which is why you go to the most direct source. Ask the originator what he said, not the person five links down the chain, or even two links. Not always possible of course, but it is here.


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PaulK
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Posts: 10806
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 3 of 19 (490950)
12-10-2008 7:46 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


I'll have to agree with Kuresu. This article might have some limited value as a supplement to the newspaper article, but that was published 8 years ago and doesn't seem to be available online.

The only other source cited is an even older magazine article, only identified by publication and year.

And on a careful reading the author doesn't even seriously engage with the points raised in the two second-hand (at best) popular sources he does cite. His main arguments seem to be based on misunderstandings.

It's not as bad as Peg's "evidence" for the Flood, but it has the same faults.


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Phat
Member
Posts: 7347
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 4 of 19 (490976)
12-10-2008 12:52 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by PaulK
12-10-2008 7:46 AM


Found It
I found access to the article here but it costs money to access. Koukl can be a bit kooky at times, but he is not as bad as many christian apologists.

Edited by Phat, : fixed spelling


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 10806
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 5 of 19 (490987)
12-10-2008 2:10 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Phat
12-10-2008 12:52 PM


Re: Found It
You realise that that's damning with faint praise ?
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DevilsAdvocate
Member
Posts: 1535
Joined: 06-05-2008


Message 6 of 19 (491012)
12-10-2008 8:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


This article was well written and is certainly food for thought. One thing that came to my mind is why the brains of people speaking different languages would be otherwise identical. Another philosophical issue to be pondered is what the impact of words are as pertaining to awareness and intelligence. Comments?

You do realize that within the first 2 years of life are the most influential in cognitive development in which the synapses of the brain are still being formed. In these first two years of brain development an individuals personality, ability to learn, memory, etc are literally hardwired. This is another reason why teaching a child to bi or multilinguil is best done in the first 2-3 years of life as their brain is the greatest ability to learn and retain phonetics and other important language skills.

If we could look at the brain of two people speaking different languages let us say with the areas of the brain illuminated when they speak we would probably see that these areas are not exactly the same. If we could peer even deeper to see individual synapses, again the synapse connections in these brains would probably be significantly different in these two individuals (or any two individuals even speaking the same language).

Words are just the sum of phonetic pieces put together. There are a lot of factors that play here. I am not a neurologist or neorosurgeoun however, from my own studies of the brain, I seriously doubt their is a neuron or group of neurons for each individual word in our vocabulary. The brain is very fluid in how language works. There are multiple paths of neurons which is not dissimilar to "cloud computing" (which itself is modeled after the human brain).

Edited by DevilsAdvocate, : No reason given.


For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Dr. Carl Sagan
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truthlover
Member (Idle past 503 days)
Posts: 1548
From: Selmer, TN
Joined: 02-12-2003


Message 7 of 19 (491028)
12-10-2008 10:44 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Phat
12-10-2008 12:52 PM


Re: Found It
Koukl can be a bit kooky at times, but he is not as bad as many christian apologists.

Maybe not, but as a Christian I find the Koukl's article embarrassing. Obviously, the researchers weren't saying there are physical nouns in the brain. Either Koukl's a kook--so ignorant that he can't figure out what they mean by noun's being in the brain--or he's being snotty by missing the point on purpose. Snotty or kooky, neither makes for a good apologist.

Christians are in need of real apologists. Koukl's not one. We need more Francis Collins, Kenneth Millers, and Glenn Mortons.

Better yet, we could use a few more Mother Theresa's that everyone's afraid to say anything bad about at all.

Oh, I forgot. Christians are willing to say bad things about Mother Theresa.

Sigh. . .


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Deftil
Member (Idle past 899 days)
Posts: 128
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 04-19-2008


Message 8 of 19 (491144)
12-12-2008 2:53 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by truthlover
12-10-2008 10:44 PM


Koukl the oversimplifier
My experience with Koukl has been that he is an oversimplifier. He tries to explain away certain aspects of science so simple people can feel like the findings of science don't have to contradict their religious beliefs. He goes for a reductio ad absurdum but without really taking all aspects of the argument he is attempting to refute into consideration, so he doesn't employ it effectively in the least.

Take the article in this thread, he's basing his entire argument against the science off of what he read in one newspaper article?

Wow, what a thorough debunking! They totally and accurately cover all aspects of the relevant science in newspaper articles! /extreme sarcasm

I read an article by him in which he argued against evolutionary psychology. In that argument, at least he was basing it off what he read in a book as opposed to a newspaper article, but even then, his entire argument was based off what he read in one book that wasn't even written by an evolutionary psychologist! Not very thorough!

But I guess some extremely simple people buy that crap. I don't know if Koukl himself is really that shallow or if he's actually bright and just writes for a shallow audience, but I never find his arguments the least bit convincing. I'm not sure if he's kooky or snotty or a bit of both, but his arguments seem to ooze with misunderstanding either way.


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Buzsaw
Member (Idle past 375 days)
Posts: 9158
From: new york usa
Joined: 03-14-2003


Message 9 of 19 (491701)
12-19-2008 9:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
There may be certain parts of your brain that are used by your soul in a cooperative unified relationship to produce language such that if some part of the physical stuff is gone awry, then you are not able to partner in the same way and make language or recognize language. There is certainly an interdependency between the soul and body. No doubt about that at all.

That's all this shows. This experiment demonstrates correlation. It doesn't demonstrate identity. It doesn't prove that the nouns, parts of speech, thoughts, and sentences are identical with stuff in your brain. They aren't the same thing.

This brings to mind some scriptures which indicate that words may be soulish properties.

Genesis eleven verses one and seven:

1. Genesis 11:1-8 TNIV

The Tower of Babel
"1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

2. Acts 2 where Galilean Jews were speaking to an assembly of people from many nations and languages. Each heard the message in their own language.

3. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is speaking in unknown tongues according to the NT.

4. Numbers 22:28 "And Jehovah opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?"

5. In Genesis one we read that the serpent kinds were more intelligent than other beasts of the field before the fall of Adam. The serpent in the garden held a conversation with Eve.

Possible conclusion: Perhaps language/words are a soulish property which Jehovah, the intelligent designer has designed primarily for humans, but which he has utilized in unusual circumstances for his purpose.

My shiatsu dog knows quite precisely when three o'clock rolls around as it's his feeding time. He acts like he sure would like to say so if my wife who feeds him is upstairs or something. The best he can do is sit up with his front paws sticking out at the bottom of the stairs and utter a growerol sort of sound. He's not allowed upstairs until bed time.

He, somewhat like humans but to a lesser degree, can think, reason a bit and beg in his limited capacity; but words? No.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
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Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 9 days)
Posts: 2284
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 10 of 19 (491780)
12-21-2008 2:06 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Buzsaw
12-19-2008 9:58 PM


Re: Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
Sorry to burst your bubble Buz, but parrots can talk. Not just imitate noises or repeat things, but actually communicate through speech.

quote:
Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex (an African grey parrot) learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species.

Pepperberg says that Alex showed the emotional equivalent of a 2 year-old child and intellectual equivalent of a 5 year-old.


Source

Mutate and Survive

Edited by Granny Magda, : Forgot to mention the species.


"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
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Buzsaw
Member (Idle past 375 days)
Posts: 9158
From: new york usa
Joined: 03-14-2003


Message 11 of 19 (491804)
12-21-2008 9:39 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Granny Magda
12-21-2008 2:06 AM


Re: Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
Granny Magda writes:

Sorry to burst your bubble Buz, but parrots can talk. Not just imitate noises or repeat things, but actually communicate through speech.

No problem, Granny. That the designer would create a beautiful novelty bird which could be taught to say a few words and correlate to what it has been trained to correlate them to for the entertainment and enjoyment of humans is not surprising.

That comes far short of refuting the points which I posted to any substantial degree.


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
This message is a reply to:
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Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 9 days)
Posts: 2284
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 12 of 19 (491814)
12-21-2008 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Buzsaw
12-21-2008 9:39 AM


Re: Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
Buz,

Are you actually suggesting that this parrot is a miracle parrot? If words are a function of the soul, and parrots don't have souls, a talking parrot would require a full-on, direct intervention miracle. Is that what you are suggesting?

It's not just in the case of Alex either. As it says at the end the article, Dr Pepperberg now uses two more talking parrots, Griffin and Arthur. They are by no means unique. I would be very surprised if crows could not talk as well (they are excellent mimics and have an advanced brain structure similar to that of parrots).

Add to this the large number of chimps, bonobos and dolphins that have also been taught to use or understand human communication and your miracle theory looks increasingly shaky. Is every one of these cases a miracle?

Is everything that invalidates your whimsical notions explained by a miracle? Why is that your knee-jerk reaction, instead of assuming the far more likely explanation; that you are wrong and there is nothing uniquely human about speech?

Mutate and Survive


"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
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Buzsaw
Member (Idle past 375 days)
Posts: 9158
From: new york usa
Joined: 03-14-2003


Message 13 of 19 (491833)
12-21-2008 10:15 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Granny Magda
12-21-2008 12:18 PM


Re: Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
Granny Magda writes:

Are you actually suggesting that this parrot is a miracle parrot? If words are a function of the soul, and parrots don't have souls, a talking parrot would require a full-on, direct intervention miracle. Is that what you are suggesting?

You make a point, Granny. Perhaps language would be a better word/term; language coupled with logic. Like the parrot and the dolphin, my shiatsu dog can understand a number of my words as to what they relate to and responds accordingly. He even acts like he's trying to talk on occasion when he gets highly emotional.

Perhaps the soulish difference in humans is that humans express themselves with words, create logical thought expressed by words etc. All the parrot can do is make word sounds, mimicking what the creature hears, often relating those word sounds to physical things which the person does when using those words. I don't see anything soulish about that.

Animals have many traits similar to humans as well as to other animal species. Some of these traits like emotion are even somewhat soulish, but nothing compared to the capability of humans who the Bible says are fashioned in the image of God. Imo, this is evidence that the same designer designed them all.

Is everything that invalidates your whimsical notions explained by a miracle?

Certainly Baalam's talking beast of burden's ability to talk was miraculous. Hey, the Biblical God is a master of miracle! I've experienced some of them in my own life; a few, amazingly spectacular. :cool:


BUZSAW B 4 U 2 C Y BUZ SAW.
The immeasurable present eternally extends the infinite past and infinitely consumes the eternal future.
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Jon
Member
Posts: 4065
From: Minnesota, U.S.A.
Joined: 12-29-2005
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 14 of 19 (491837)
12-22-2008 12:38 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Phat
12-10-2008 5:33 AM


A Linguistic Perspective
First: I cannot believe you struck up this thread without telling me :mad:.

Second: Your article is really long and off-putting. And judging by a few of the paragraphs I read, this sounds like a lot of CCoI malarkey. Some old coon trying to play to his CCoI audience by demeaning the other side's point simply because they did not assume the existence of some magical fairy realm in doing their science. So, maybe there is a more specific point to this article that you would like to discuss? Otherwise, I can just shrink out of here quietly and pretend I never even bothered participating ;) (since I don't plan on reading the article).

Third:

One thing that came to my mind is why the brains of people speaking different languages would be otherwise identical.

Good thing to ponder. In fact, the theories of Generative Grammar and Transformational Grammar (which are very much the same) are very hot in the field of linguistics right now. Though, they are by no means undisputed (especially the very rigid Chomskyan versions), and especially by me. :)

Another philosophical issue to be pondered is what the impact of words are as pertaining to awareness and intelligence.

Another nice thought. Check out the Sapir-Worf Hypothesis for more on that. (By the way, most of those notions have been pretty much completely refuted these days, as the wiki article points out. The effect one's language has on one's thought patterns/processes is much less than SWH supposes.)

Jon :)


You've been Gremled!
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Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 9 days)
Posts: 2284
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 15 of 19 (491889)
12-23-2008 4:01 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Buzsaw
12-21-2008 10:15 PM


Re: Are Words A Property Of The Soul?
Like the parrot and the dolphin, my shiatsu dog can understand a number of my words as to what they relate to and responds accordingly. He even acts like he's trying to talk on occasion when he gets highly emotional.

Unlike your dog, the parrot in question actually could talk, or at any rate, it certainly could if Dr Pepperberg's research is to be believed. It could use specific words to communicate specific ideas. It could use words for number values up to six. Your dog can't do that.

Perhaps the soulish difference in humans is that humans express themselves with words, create logical thought expressed by words etc.

Yet this is exactly what the parrot seems to have been doing. In what way is "I want X" not a logical thought expressed in words? This suggests either that Alex had a soul or that souls are not necessary for speech.

All the parrot can do is make word sounds, mimicking what the creature hears, often relating those word sounds to physical things which the person does when using those words.

No, that is exactly what Alex was not doing. Did you even read that article?

quote:
quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence.

That is not just mimicry or object recognition. Pepperberg even believes that Alex was able to coin new words for new objects. Perhaps she is wrong, but her work with parrots forces us to take these ideas seriously.

Animals have many traits similar to humans as well as to other animal species. Some of these traits like emotion are even somewhat soulish, but nothing compared to the capability of humans who the Bible says are fashioned in the image of God. Imo, this is evidence that the same designer designed them all.

Actually, we are not that far apart here, we just attribute the process to different agencies. I would say that many animals show human-like mental capacities. I would also say that there are many examples of what might be considered primitive language use, emotion or intelligence amongst animals. I however see this as being an obvious implication of evolutionary theory rather than the work of a designer. It isn't at all surprising to me that a range of animals should show a varying range of cognitive abilities.

Certainly Baalam's talking beast of burden's ability to talk was miraculous.

But is God opening the parrot's mouth? ;)

Mutate and Survive


"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
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