One of the major themes of my recent posts has been “What is consciousness?” or “Are we just a brain inside a body, or does our consciousness transcend the physical?” Well, it doesn’t get much plainer than lopping off fifty percent of a person’s brain and discovering that the whole person is still there.
There was an incredible documentary on telly last night about a little girl called Cameron Mott. When only three years old, she started displaying the symptoms of Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, the only cure for which is a hemispherectomy, the removal or disconnection of one entire half of the brain. After the operation, Cameron suffered (as predicted) paralysis along one side of her body, but she was young enough that, after a few days, she was already training the remaining side of her brain to take over, and she regained much of the use of her immobilised limbs.
The most incredible thing to me, and the thing which was beyond the theme of the documentary, was that that Cameron came out of the operation mentally and emotionally intact. She was still the same little girl. Surely this begs the question: if we can lose half of our brain, and still be “all there,” what on earth are we? I think this points very strongly to the idea that the brain is not the person; that consciousness (the core of ourselves), including our self-awareness and possibly our memories, lies somewhere beyond physical matter; that the brain is simply a machine that serves the consciousness and helps us interact with and function in this five-sense reality.
And then there’s my favourite question in all this: If consciousness is non-physical, what happens to it when the body dies? Does it necessarily die, too? Why should it, when it isn’t physical matter?
If I can make any valid point, it’s this: A view of reality that rests strictly on scientific principles involving the denial of anything beyond the physical, just because it is untestable, strikes me as wholely inadequate. When you’ve got scientists running around insisting there is no soul and that we’re just a brain, and then I’m seeing with my own eyes that somebody can lose half of their brain and still be fully compus mentus, well, excuse me for believing in a “soul.”
The full documentary Living with Half a Brain can be watched online via this YouTube playlist.