The claim “brain is the mind and mind is the brain” is not evidence based; it merely reflects a superficial view rooted in the materialistic ideology. It’s unconvincing to ascribe the intelligent sequence of conscious and coherent thoughts of human beings to random firings of billions of unconscious neurons. This thesis is equivalent to saying, “This is the best explanation I can offer as long as our thinking is limited by physical matter and we have nothing else in our shop.” Such inadequacies have set the stage for the centuries-old debate on the mind–body problem in philosophy.
The hypothetical zombie character is used extensively in the thought experiments to point out the inconsistencies of materialism, and to prove it wrong about mental properties like intelligence and consciousness. A similar argument can also be given by observing the operation of a familiar television set. The TV analogy, which involves people with television sets but no awareness of movie making and television broadcasting, is a much simpler and more effective way to appeal the same cause.
The operation of a TV involves the orderly activation of millions of pixels (on/off-switchable dot-size circuits) on the screen selectively with precision, and painting sequential pictures about 30 frames per second to create the illusion of motion. Trying to explain intelligence and consciousness as well as thoughts and imagination with neuron firings in the brain is like attempting to explain the showing of a movie on TV by the random firings of electrons in the picture tube of the TV set. It is like presenting the millions of electrons hitting the screen at the right spots with the right color when the TV set is on as proof, with no regard to scenario writers, movie makers, broadcasters, and the invisible electromagnetic TV signals reaching the TV set. Further, patterns of electron firing can be matched with the pictures on TV to reinforce the causal power of electrons on the formation of motion pictures on the TV screen. Then would come the claim: “The electron gun of the TV did it.”
To provide further support to this claim, the proposers would demonstrate that if the electron gun is damaged or removed, there would be no picture on the TV screen. They would also present the interrelation between the electron gun activity on the TV body and the video activity on the screen as a causal relation. This explanation could be deemed plausible and adequate if we have seen only arbitrarily twinkling color dots on the screen. But, if those colorful dots arrange such that they form the faces of the people we know, and those people perform reasonable and meaningful acts, we could not believe that the well-made movie we are watching on the screen is the make of a randomly firing electron gun.
If we were not aware of broadcasting and the invisible electromagnetic signals all over the room, and we were not able to come up with a more coherent explanation than the electron gun theory, we would probably sit in front of the magic box and talk about whether we would ever be able to solve the mystery of the amazing electron gun. First, we would ask the question of how the electron gun imagines such creative movie scenarios, and prescribes the character of the actors together with all their actions. Then, we would wonder about how the TV set shoots electrons to the millions of dots on the screen with its electron gun at such speeds and precision that every second several intelligible patterns in the form of sequential pictures appear on the screen in perfect order, together with right sequence of intelligible sounds.
Being puzzled, we would have to ascribe to this electron gun, which is made of lifeless and dummy atoms, superhuman-like powers and attributes. Thinking that it is even more capable than the imaginary superhuman, we would constantly express our amazement. We would then console ourselves, thinking that someday we might be able to unlock the mysteries of electrons and completely understand how the miraculous electron gun functions.
Occasionally, some progressive thinkers will point out that the movie we are watching on TV involves imagination, knowledge, purpose, planning, intelligence, consciousness, and abilities that an electron gun cannot possibly have, since it does not even have a life, let alone awareness and imagination. They would suggest that the most logical thing to do is to think beyond the TV set and to look for possible answers outside the device. Of course, the established thinkers will object to this suggestion and some may even resent it, stating that the boundaries of the TV set are very clear, and that looking for answers outside the set is absurd. If the questioning of the out of the box thinkers are silenced, those people can forget about ever discovering screenplays, broadcasting, electromagnetic waves, and electromagnetic video/audio-conversion technologies. Not to mention derivative products like cell phones and the internet.
It should be clear from this analogy that the brain with neurons firing electrochemical signals is not much different than the television set with an electron gun firing electrons. Both are physical things made of atoms with no intelligence, consciousness or self-awareness, and both produce outputs that neither seems capable of making themselves and comprehending it. In the case of the television set, the mystery is easily solved by thinking outside the box and linking the visible set with invisible broadcasting and the conscious movie makers in a studio. Likewise, the secrets of the brain can also be solved by thinking outside the skull.
By doing so, we may end up with intriguing new combinations of existence and possibilities. We have nothing to lose by enriching our inventory of realities to include nonphysical entities that manifest their effects as attributes of physical objects. As mentioned before, this is not much different than accepting the existence of the invisible gravitational field based on the manifestation of that field on physical objects as attraction or weight—qualities that do not stem from the objects themselves.