By William Markiewicz

In "New Claim That Mind and Brain Are Separate", (Toronto Star November 5, 2000) Jay Ingram reports recent research on Near Death Experiences (NDEs) in which patients revived after the brain was clinically dead describe the same experiences as patients whose brains showed traces of life.

The fact that the dead brain can project, engender images, memories, fits the supposition that there may be other sources for the mind than the brain and some investigators connect those sources with the 'soul.' Another, more ancient, discovery provoked grand enthusiasm among the adepts of metaphysics. For instance, it was discovered that when a holographic image of a horse's head was isolated, and enlarged, it produced the whole horse again. How did the head hold the image of the body? For those interested in Oriental philosophy it was an esoteric confirmation of the union of the Universe, that each part contains the whole. I am sorry I don't remember how much further they investigated this holographic phenomenon, but I could propose a possible explanation of the manifestation of mind while the brain is clinically dead.

Awhile ago there was a TV documentary about people born with practically no brain. Their skulls were filled with liquid instead of brain mass but those presented on the program were able to function. Yes, there were some disabilities. For instance, one young man spoke quite slowly. One young girl walked in a contorted way but the same girl showed wonderful ability in ballet; noone would guess her trouble. The young man pursued a University education with average grades. He said his father complained, "Only average?" The audience applauded. The mystery was not totally elucidated but it was found that those people had scattered neurons in the skull, or even in the backbone that seemed to perform the cerebral functions even if they were in tiny quantities. We should keep in mind that nature's pathway puts a greater accent on approximacy than on optimum performance. An engineer who builds a car or plane model tries to achieve the most for the least; maximal speed with less fuel, least resistance possible, maximum safety, economy, etc. This is absolutely contrary to how nature functions. Seeds fall randomly; it's not economy that counts but quantity, maximum production. Limitless sperm are wasted for one individual. Under the most impossible conditions life has a place, like those sub-oceanic vents where creatures pool their metabolism totally unconnected to the sun's energy which all other living creatures require. When the vent closes the spores spread randomly with the current for hundreds of years, finding another vent or not, starting again or not. Nature offers everything and cares about nothing. We see how the tree produces leaves randomly by thousands, accumulating clusters of leaves that receive unequal amounts of light or air. They just cluster, coexist, function more or less, certainly not all at their optimum. Those on the sunny side have an easier time than the others and still the tree doesn't dramatically change shape to find the most sun. It usually remains symmetrical. The only area in which Nature is unbeatable in performance is adaptability. Specialisation is not a dogma. Something can always be replaced by something else; something can compensate some lack. Nature is not economic, not efficient, but still an unbeatable manager. All evolution is nothing but management, switching from water to air, wings, plants, animals, you name it. So, those individuals born without brain but with some cerebral elements, not necessarily located in the usual place, can function. In the same way the mind can function in the clinically dead brain or somewhere in its vicinity without the necessity of speculating about unknown elements like mind separated from brain, existence of soul, etc. Soul may exist or not but the proof is not here just as the reconstruction of the fragmented holographic picture doesn't prove any philosophic credo.

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