Brain Dead


Certain illnesses are known to lead to so-called ‘brain death’. It raises a good philosophical question; ‘is the brain alive in the first place?’

This sounds like a crazy question…a no-brainer right?

Now here comes the issues; what is ‘life?’ Just a copy-and-paste job from wikipedia informs us that:

Life is a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased, or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate

We could say that if it is born, grows, multiplies, dwindles and dies, it’s alive.

Looking at this, we can conclude that the brain isn’t actually alive, because this is a property that is rather ascribed to the organism as a whole. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon your outlook, this raises an interesting question; one which has haunted philosophers for as long as they’ve been philosophising, and one which has not been solved to this day, even after all of our incredible feats in the different emerging fields of science.

Yes, we know that chemical reactions are integral to creating different internal and external landscapes for organisms, but here’s the issue:

‘How is a chemical or electrochemical pathway related to a qualitative feeling, memory, thought or experience?’

I’ll leave on an example. Let’s say John is in the kitchen and gets scolded by boiling water. How it is that his arm reacts and moves almost immediately after receiving the stimulus is very well understood. What we scientists can’t even theoretically try to understand is, ‘where does the qualitative experience (qualia) of pain come from?’

The next time you experience a noticeable internal or external qualia (painful or pleasant), sit back and reflect…where on earth is this coming from?

True beauty is recognising, and acting accordingly — Bhaktivinoda Thakur

Ryan's a scientist with an interest in explaining the unexplainable. After all, that’s what gets scientists going. He loves talking about the mysterious nature of the universe, and how it is that life ‘just works!’ Isn’t it amazing that you don’t have to bark orders at your leg to move every time you walk, or that you need not constantly panic that you haven't made your heart beat for a while? His writings delve into the question of ‘what is consciousness’, from scientific and philosophical perspectives, and get everyone's brain buds jumping around with excitement at the possibility of a future science that knows no bounds.

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