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Re: OT: Doubting Thomas: was "Introducing Myself"

From:Mike Ellis <nihilsum@...>
Date:Thursday, February 17, 2005, 8:11
Sally Caves wrote:

>... Maybe because I talk a mile a >minute, :) but mostly, I think, because he had extremely set opinions about >brain injuries that he didn't want unsettled. "I don't believe it." He was >adamant about it. I had fallen subject to an urban legend, and was >foolishly credulous. He was sure it couldn't have happened. "I SAW footage >of President Kennedy's assassination," he exclaimed. "No one can survive >that kind of head injury."
Your friend should look up a fellow named Ahad Israfil, who lost a large piece of his cranium to a shotgun blast and survived. But I don't recommend that you or anyone else reading this should google that story if you're squeamish. The footage I've seen on Guinness World Records and Ripley's etc is ... kinda hard to forget. Also, there were at least two stories in the news within the last year about people having one or more nails removed from their brains after being shot with a nail gun. "But the bullet that killed Kennedy had a very
>different point of entry," I tried to say. "Doesn't matter." The whole >thing was a hoax, despite the fact that there were scores of eye witnesses, >medical writings and accounts of Gage's behavior at the time of the accident >and later, and that Gage's skull with the hole in it is on display at the >Smithsonian. (That's right, isn't it?)
It is, along with a cast of his whole head.
> Now there are different opinions >about how exactly Gage conducted his life after the accident, but just about >everybody familiar with the incident admitted that it happened and that it >is a medical milestone and a personal tragedy, and that it is truly amazing. >What are the odds that a three foot piece of metal as thick as a finger and >propelled by a rocket will fly through your head missing the major arteries, >the areas that control autonomic functioning, the speech center, the >hippocampus, emerge between the two lobes themselves, and you'll live to >tell about it? About a trillion to one?
Pretty slim. But when we hear stories like these, we tend to forget that for every such fluke accident there are countless people who take something to the head and *don't* survive it.
>This argument about the P, too, raises some interesting questions about the >nature of belief. Do we have to be present at a scene to believe it? Can >we trust the accounts of medical men of the mid-nineteenth century before >photography was widely used to document things? Or are we to believe that >everything uncommonly strange is a hoax before we are present to put our >fingers in the wound itself? For me, the fact that Phineas Gage survived >the accident with memory and intellect intact is about as credible as the >Pirahas and their equally strange development, which may be due just as much >to chance and environment. We don't need science fiction to find this world >strange enough.
Well there's belief and then there's belief... discussions on where the boundaries of 'knowledge' and 'belief' lie are usually pretty damn tedious and hollow (EYE EM AITCH OH). But I can see why people would doubt the Piraha story, and stories about people like Gage/Israfil/etc. The difference is that Phineas left his skull, and Ahad's been all over television and is still alive (they've fixed up his head though). I'm not sure how many different accounts there are to corroborate the weirdness of the Piraha mind (there's that one really good PDF, which I can't find anywhere anymore -- all links are broken). Also haven't heard of anyone who reported the opposite: that the Piraha *are* able to count and understand abstractions, remote history etc. M


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>