“Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light”blog post this week on the neuroscience research of Columbia’s Sean Escola, NIH Director Francis Collins makes the obvious, yet too often overlooked point that each of the hundred billion or so neurons in the human brain is different. In our profound ignorance it is easy to view the brain like a pile of pudding, achieving its fantastic abilities through a lucky mixture of the right chemicals. But of course, nothing could be farther from the truth and Collins’ observations helps to disabuse us of such folly. If you have ever wired up a machine you will understand. It is not just a pile of wires that somehow happen to get it right. Each wire has its own, unique function, attaching to two specific connectors. Things are astronomically more complicated in the brain, as its “wires” are not merely a conduit of electrical charge but an incredibly complex cell called a neuron. And each neuron does not merely attach to two distant connectors, but rather to hundreds or thousands of connectors. And each connection is nothing like a simple soldering attachment. In the brain they are called synapses and with thousands of molecular-scale switches researchers compare them to microprocessors.
But on top of all that, each neuron is different. A hundred billion different, unique neurons, each having a different, unique function. Each forming a different, unique set of synapses. We have not even begun to understand all of this neural circuitry, let alone how to design or build anything like it. And yet we insist it all must have arisen spontaneously, as a result of random mutations. That is not science, that is absurdity.
h/t: Paul Asay