The Evolution of the Physical Brain Structure and its Mind Functionality

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The scientific consensus appears to be that humanity, through the objective study of the brain, has gathered in the last one hundred years, a tremendous amount of observational and statistical data involving how the physical organ of the brain is thought to have evolved, and how it adapts, learns, functions and dysfunctions, but what is lacking is the underlying or inherent ‘code’ which makes sense of it all on a unified level. This not only includes the ability to integrate all this knowledge (or logically cognise how it all fits together), but should also include a reconciling of the ‘subjective’ with the ‘objective’ points of view. This is required, because without reconciling the entirety or totality of the experience of conscious existence, any theory of brain functionality would seem deficient in its descriptive power. Furthermore, many scientists, although agreeing that the ‘mind’ emerges from the brain, nevertheless are of the opinion that once ’emerged’, the conscious mind cannot be directly associated (or ‘reduced’) to the any particular part of the physical structure of the brain. Consciousness cannot be located as of yet, in any area of the functioning brain, and appears to be fully ‘dispersed’ throughout the entire structure. Having established these curious facts, philosophers then argue over exactly ‘where’ to sense of ‘self-consciousness’ resides, and whether it can be realistically ‘limited’ to the brain structure, or is distributed throughout the body (and perhaps even throughout the environment), etc.

As rational science is premised upon the observation and measurement of material reality, it is only logical to start with the obvious acknowledgement that a) the physical structure of the brain exists, and b) that this physical structure has discernible stages of evolutionary development. The earliest part of the brain appears to be a simple extension of the spinal cord, and allows for ‘instructional’ behaviour. This instinct can often be brutal in nature, and functions only to enhance the survival potentiality of an individual. There is no self-awareness at this point of evolutionary development, and no capacity for perceiving or caring for the well-being of others. This instinctive aspect of the brain then evolved the limbic structure, which allowed for the development of emotionality. The ‘reptilian’ brain (or ‘brain stem’) regulates breathing, vital functions, metabolism and involuntary movements, but cannot think or learn. An animal’s attack mechanism, for example, is triggered when prey is smelt, etc. With the appearance of mammals, the cerebral cortex and limbic system evolved around the brain stem, and with it the ability to learn and to memorize. This allowed for the development of better survival strategies premised upon experience. The limbic development also initiated the development of emotionality through the agencies of ‘fear’ and ‘desire’. Fear can cause enhanced violence or paralysis, whilst love or desire can cause all kinds of unusual behaviours. With the development of the neo-cortex within the higher mammals, the ability to ‘think’ and to ‘plan’ was developed. All three stages of evolutionary brain development define a modern human-being, with the development of culture and society (premised upon family and productivity, etc), the ‘thinking’ capacity has been emphasised, and is used to regulate for more instinctive aspects of the brain functionality. Negotiation, consensus and co-operation are preferred over arbitrary violence or the selfish pursuance of desire (to such an extent that sophisticated legal codes designed to discourage ‘instinct’ and privilege ‘reason’ have been established throughout the human world).

Generally speaking, the brain is considered the area within which the mind emerges. Although its biology is understood, and many of its functions and processes have been identified and understood, there is still much to be learned. The brain is taken as the physical basis for the mind, (with some arguing that the brain and mind are the same thing, or that mind is an illusion that does not exist at all), and despite their being an obvious causal connection between neurological functions and psychological output, the psychological output itself (including consciousness) cannot equated or identified with the neurological processes that serve as its physical basis. This would suggest that the mind is far more than the brain the functionality that generates it. This is similar to the situation involving the nervous system, whereby neurological function cannot be directly identified with sensory experience – despite a direct causal link. This situation would appear to confirm that consciousness is a special arrangement of matter, and that the idea that the brain is an aerial or antenna that ‘detects’ or ‘picks-up’ an already existing (objective) conscious stratum in the universe is incorrect, because there is no evidence for such a conclusion. Interestingly, the two co-founders of evolutionary theory through natural selection – Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace – disagreed on this matter. Darwin preferred the idea that the conscious mind emerged from the brain, whilst Wallace believed that consciousness existed as an objective reality ‘outside’ the brain, and that the brain had evolved to ‘detect’ its presence.

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