- One region of the brain will handle a wide variety of different tasks. "As Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld explained in their compelling and highly readable book, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, you put somebody in an fMRI machine and see that the amygdala or the insula lights up during certain activities. But the amygdala lights up during fear, happiness, novelty, anger or sexual arousal (at least in women). The insula plays a role in processing trust, insight, empathy, aversion and disbelief. So what are you really looking at?"
- One activity is usually distributed over many different places in the brain. "In his book, Brain Imaging, the Yale biophysicist Robert Shulman notes that we have this useful concept, 'working memory,' but the activity described by this concept is widely distributed across at least 30 regions of the brain. Furthermore, there appears to be no dispersed pattern of activation that we can look at and say, 'That person is experiencing hatred.'"
- One action can arise out of many different brain states and the same event can trigger many different brain reactions. "As the eminent psychologist Jerome Kagan has argued, you may order the same salad, but your brain activity will look different, depending on whether you are drunk or sober, alert or tired."
A further point we might add is:
4. People have recruited different regions of their brain to take over the functions of other regions that have been damaged. [6, 7]But Brooks' column elicited a curious response by one Paul S----, who reacted to the stimulus by responding:
So, try to explain to me how neuronal activity does not lead to all animal behavioural activity. What other mechanisms are you proposing? I've worked in neuroscience for years and have seen no evidence that behaviour and decision-making are anything but the results of neuronal firing. Research results are now telling us that free will is really an illusion too. To be crude, we are meat in motion but too self-centred and arrogant to accept it. 
- The most singular part was when he asks "what other mechanisms..." because that assumes that the whole thing simply must be mechanical. (Why not hold out for the old hydraulic model and insist on a balance of humors? Remember, the Greeks could "explain" how balances of humors would lead to all animal behaviors.) Anger was a boiling of blood around the heart -- a statement made opaque by the curiosity that 'boiling,' 'blood,' and 'heart' did not then have their current modern meaning. "What other humors are needed?"
- The notion that "research results are now telling us that free will is really an illusion" is laughable, since it indicated that either the researchers, Paul S---, or both have no understanding of what 'free will' means. They simply designate the lighting of certain brain regions under fMRI as the "moment of decision" and prove their conclusions with their assumptions. How there can be an "illusion" is left unspecified. 
- Paul S--- does not explain how "meat in motion" can be either "self-centered" or "arrogant." Or how it could "accept" anything at all. If free will is "probably" an illusion, then surely acceptance is an illusion! But it probably does not strike him that he is ludicrously self-contradictory here. For some reason, Internet atheists have a special animus against free will on the mistaken belief that they are sticking it to religion rather than to humanism!
- But his first statement -- that neuronal activity leads to all animal behavioral activity -- does not seem to admit the possibility that animal behavioral activity leads to all neuronal activity. It may be less that decision-making is the result of neuronal firing than that neuronal firing is the result of decision-making. The journey explains the footprints; the footprints do not explain the journey.
|This is your brain on stimulus-response|
|Imagination involves images, |
visual or otherwise
But this does not mean the neural patterns cause the thinking rather than vice versa. One can easily disrupt the neural switchboard and cause a subject to twitch a finger, or to feel fear, or some such physical thing. You can get into the telephone switchboard and simulate a call from another party, if you try hard enough. But while if you want TOF to come you may twitch your finger, causing your finger to twitch does not make you want TOF to come.
The Physics of Baseball
|Does this motion require different|
physics than "blind forces"?
No. I didn't think so. We would still find that s=½gt² for vertical distance traveled when starting from rest, and all the rest of that suite of natural laws we studied in high school. IOW, there is no way to tell from the physics of moving bodies whether the body was moved naturally (or even mechanically) or by volition. Whether it is Randy Johnson or a automated ball cannon in a batting cage, it follows the same laws.
Neurons do not differ from baseballs in this regard. Science is a filter, much like a fishing net; but we mustn't conclude from the fish caught in the net the sizes of fishes in the deep blue sea. Yet some people reason that if science cannot distinguish between the mechanistic and the volitional, everything at bottom must be mechanistic. The apparently volitional is "really" mechanical. But surely it is just as reasonable to conclude that everything is at bottom volitional. The apparently mechanical is "really" the working out of a Will. At least from the scientific perspective you cannot prove otherwise. [4, 2]
- David Brooks. "Beyond the Brain," New York Times Opinion Pages, June 17, 2013
- James Chastek. Notes on free-will and determinism, action vs. interaction (III) Just Thomism (June 15, 2013)
- ------------------. Free Will and Electrodes, Just Thomism (Dec 30, 2009)
- ------------------. Interior dialogue on “blind forces." Just Thomism (February 27, 2009)
- Walter J. Freeman. "Nonlinear Brain Dynamics and Intention According to Aquinas," Mind & Matter Vol. 6(2), pp. 207-234
- TOF. Humanism in Danger! The TOF Spot, Jan 15, 2012
- ------. Even More Ethically Fraught, The TOF Spot, July 19, 2012
- William Vallicella. "More on Jerry Coyne on Free Will," Maverick Philosopher (Jan 22, 2012)