One day Professor Frank Taylor came into the classroom carrying a large glass jar. He set it on his desk announcing, "I brought my brain with me today."
This grey sponge once lived inside a man's skull. The professor said there is nothing visibly wrong with the brain, but its owner was mad. The only way to have looked for a cause would have been to open the living skull. That sort of thing was frowned on except in horror movies.
I wrote a sonnet that included a line about free will. When the late George Nelson of Wycombe read it, he said there is evidence that there is no such thing. Lately it has been reported that by using a scanner to watch which areas of the brain light up, it can be seen that a decision has been reached by that marvelous computer before the subject knows what option he or she will choose.
George Nelson was ahead of his time.
Many questions have been asked about how the brain works. Some thinkers pictured a little man or woman snuggled in the brain membranes like an operator in the cab of a backhoe. When scholars were able to open the skull and look for this elf they found no such a thing.
Some thinkers decided there must be a soul, a spirit that cannot be seen by beings in the flesh, directing the flesh. Many still believe this in one form or another. Others believe the actions are performed by the neurons and fluids and at death the computer is shut down. This conclusion is supported by changes in behaviour that occur with aging or disease.
It has been suggested that some thinking goes on in the peripheral nervous system without consulting the sponge in the skull. Doug Lester demonstrated this by asking a question. If you want to back a bicycle to the left, which way do you turn the handlebars? As I considered this I moved my arms as if I were sitting on the bike. “See?” said Doug.
I'm inclined to believe this goes beyond steering a bike. When I finish the rough draught of a column I never use spell check. It doesn't differentiate between words used by accident, there instead of their for example. It takes a living brain to catch those goofs, and even that isn't entirely perfect.
When I wrote about the Belle of Griffin's Corner I didn't notice I spelled her last name in two ways until I spotted it in the published work. It was McIntyre, not MacIntyre.
Mc denotes Irish extraction, Mac is from Scotland. Both mean son of somebody, a father, grandfather or deeper into antiquity.
My McDowell ancestors hail from Ireland, but a cousin who married a Scottish lass changed his name to MacDowell in her honour.
A writer recently said Sigmund Freud erred in his id, ego, superego controls. Freud explained in his books that these terms do not belong to any specific area in the brain. They are processes.
The purpose in discussing these questions isn't entirely to excuse my goofs. They are vitally important in the drafting of laws and in the interpretation of laws by judges.
President Obama said this week, "If these proposals save just one life they will be worth it." These may not be his exact words, but they were used in Canada years ago to defend the gun registry.
The gun registry is capable of taking a life if an officer trusts it when entering a home where there is an unregistered weapon. There is no way to calculate the net result of such law.
The same can be said of posting armed guards in schools. Guns can be fired accidentally. Collateral damage is even more likely. Locking doors is equally two sided. May keep assassins out. May keep emergency workers out.
To sum up, don't shoot from the lip.