virus: Time-Travel (was: Thinking clearly about faith)

Tim Rhodes (
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 00:12:31 -0800

Jake wrote:

>It would be much easier just to operate on intuition alone.  It takes
>more effort to subject your intuitions to rational criticism - rationally
>criticizing your beliefs is work.

I went to search the web for an article I'd read which I wanted to site regarding intuition and look what, to my surprise, came up #3 on the search engine--my own long forgotten post to CoV!!!

Take a look at the date on this sucker. Ww've come a long way since then, haven't we? ;-(

virus: Limbic Understanding
Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 10:58:12 -0800 (PST)

Messages sorted by: [ date ][ thread ][ subject ][ author ] Next message: Peter Charlot: "Re: virus: Re: virus-digest V2 #32" Previous message: Tim Rhodes: "Re: virus: Memetic Evolution" Next in thread: Peter Charlot: "Re: virus: Limbic Understanding" Maybe reply: Peter Charlot: "Re: virus: Limbic Understanding"

Here's some fodder on the subject of decisions being made before the conscious mind is made aware of them. This is why I think limiting the scope of memes to linguistic information is in error. We may need to talk about something like "proto-memes" in the future. A "proto-meme" being
(my definition here, folks) information that spreads in accordance with
the model of memes, yet is non-(or proto-)linguistic in nature.

This is from a paper on Synesthesia by Richard E. Cytowic, M.D., author of "The Man Who Tasted Shapes", a good laymans introduction to the primacy of the paleo-mammalian brain (limbic system) over the cortex.

(Sorry, in advance, about the length. I clipped as much as I could
without losing context.)

Synesthesia: Phenomenology And Neuropsychology A review of current knowledge

Richard E. Cytowic 1995


4.15 "Noetic" is a rarely used word that comes from the Greek nous, meaning intellect or understanding. It gives us our world "knowledge," and means knowledge that is experienced directly, an illumination that is accompanied by a feeling of certitude. James spoke of a "noetic sense of truth" and the sense of authority that these states impart.

Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time <3>.


8. The Implications Of Synesthesia Regarding The Primacy Of Emotion

8.1 Possibly because we have historically held a dichotomy between reason and emotion, we have misunderstood and even minimized the role that emotion plays in our thinking and actions. I want to make clear that the following comments are not a direct cause-and-effect of synesthesia, but an implication resulting from its physiologic basis. The two-fold key to this implication is: (1) appreciating the major role that the limbic brain plays in synesthesia; and (2) considering newer non-hierarchical models of brain organization.

8.2 The word "multiplex" is usually applied to contemporary concepts of brain organization that take into account volume transmission, distributed systems, non-linear dynamics, and the thermodynamic energy costs of any given biologic neural process. Such newer models remain largely unknown, a surprising unfamiliarity given their implications - for example, that we are irrational creatures by design and that emotion, not reason, may play the decisive role both in how we think and act. Additionally, our brains are not passive receivers of energy flux, but dynamic explorers that actively seek out the stimuli that interest them and determine their own contexts for perception. Ommaya
(in press) has elegantly articulated a number of powerful
contradictions in conventional models of brain organization that led to his reevaluation of the role of emotion in cognition and behavior. Indeed, he describes consciousness as "a type of emotion," and one of emotion's roles as a "cognitive homeostat".

8.3 The conventional hierarchical model implied that the limbic system was left behind as the neocortex burgeoned during evolution. If so, then human emotions are comparatively primitive, no more sophisticated than those of other mammals. Below the level of mammals, the limbic system is not seen in its developed form, but once we reach the mammalian line it undergoes robust elaboration. This development, however, occurs in tandem with that of the neocortex. Some mammals emerge higher in one dimension than another: rabbits, for example have well-develop limbic brains compared to their neocortical development, whereas monkeys show the opposite trend. Humans are unique among mammals in being well-developed in both limbic and neocortical dimensions. In humans, the relationship between cortex and subcortical brain is not one of dominance and hierarchy, therefore, but of multiplex reciprocity and interdependence.

8.4 Anatomically, the number of human limbic fibre tracts is greater both in relative size and absolute number compared to all other fibre systems. Thanks to new techniques, we have only recently realized that there are more projections from the limbic system to the neocortex than the other way around. In other words, we had the primary direction of flow backwards all these years. While we think that the cortex contains our representations (or models) of reality - what exists outside ourselves - it is the limbic brain that determines the salience of that information. Therefore, I join Ommaya in arguing that it is an emotional evaluation, not a reasoned one, that ultimately informs our behavior.

8.5 I am hardly rejecting either reason or the role of the neocortex in objective assessment or assigning meaning. Though we quickly speak of reason dominating emotion, the reverse is actually true: the limbic brain easily overwhelms thinking.


8.8 Emotion did not get left behind in evolution. Reason and emotion evolved together and their neural substrates are densely interconnected. Yet each concerns itself with a different task. The word "salience", which means to "leap up" or "stick out", describes how the limbic brain alerts us to what is meaningful. We might say that the emotional brain deals with qualitatively significant information.

8.9 The limbic brain's use of common structures for different functions such as memory, emotion, and attention may partly explain why humans excel at making decisions based on incomplete information, "acting on our hunches." We know more than we think we know. And yet are we not always surprised at our insights, inspirations, and creativity? And do we not just as often reject our direct experience in favor of "objective facts" instead?


9.4 Reason is just the endless paperwork of the mind. The heart of our creativity is our direct experience and the salience that our limbic brain gives it. Allowing it to be that does not stop us from overlaying rational considerations on it - after which we can talk, recount, explain, interpret, and analyze to our heart's content.


10.18 Just as I argued that our passion for a detached and "objective" point of view has diminished other kinds of knowing, so too I see that the experimental emphasis on deficits is gradually smothering the clinical method of symptom analysis. And herein lies the friction between cognitive scientists, who think abstractly and in terms of computation, and those scientists who think clinically and in terms of biology.

(From y-1-cytowic )

Comments anyone? (sorry, again about the length of this post)

Prof. Tim
"Thinkin' wid dat old brain again"