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17 October 2016: Book ‘Matter and What Matters’ by Lionel Sharman Chapts 5&6 – led by Heidrun

These chapters consider the operation of our brains.  Does the brain operate in the coherent, predicable, mathematically way Lionel proposes?  Some brain functions are innate, most from ‘experiences’ – both are stored in the brain.  How much is the brain like a computer – some functions ‘hard wired’, some determined by programmes (and increasingly now by learning).

We considered ‘out-of-body’ experiences, dreams, self awareness – these don’t appear to be ‘innate or predicable’.  Lionel argues that we don’t really have ‘free will’ – the brain will arrive at the same conclusion given the same set of circumstances – experience will predispose our decision/viewpoint.  We thought that age and other experiences would change one’s views and that indoctrination can be unlearned.  On the other hand, we tend to chose communication channels which reinforce our preconceptions eg news channels, social media, political rhetoric, and so limit our ability to think of other outcomes/views.

We think there is no separate non-material self.  We are a total complete package.  Criminals and psychopaths are as they are as a result of birth (hardwired) and circumstances; some reprogramming is possible, not but necessarily all.  We contrasted Lionel’s views with Karen Armstrong’s Logos and Mythos; modern thought focusses on logos and ignores mythos – dreaming, imagination, hope.  According to Lionel, God is not provable as no test can be established to demonstrate god’s actions ie cause and effect.