Zack Vayda and his Brains
This blog needs to start with a disclaimer: I am in no way a scientist. I find topics within science to be interesting and compelling, but it definitely does not mean I'm an expert. Take this blog with a grain (or more) of salt, and it would probably be a good idea to cross-check this information with someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
The brain is made up of two, similar halves, the left and right hemispheres. In many ways, the two are copies of each other. There's a left and a right prefrontal cortex, a left and a right temporal lobe, a left and a right parietal lobe, etc. The two hemispheres are so similar that, if absolutely necessary, a human could survive with only one working hemisphere. The two hemispheres communicate with each other primarily through the corpus callosum, a thick cord of nerves. Occasionally, the corpus callosum can experience feedback, similar to how audio amplifiers can make that painfully high, screeching sound. Doctors have learned that epileptic seizures are caused by this "feedback" between the corpus callosum and the hemispheres.
In an attempt to stop the seizures from happening, doctors proposed severing the corpus callosum. After conducting the surgery, the patient seemed to have recovered fully, and the seizures had stopped. The successful surgery was repeated many times with other patients, until the doctors found out the patients were beginning to have strange experiences. In one case, a patient went to hug his wife and instead punched her with his left fist. Another patient was shopping for a simple dress and picked a conservative one with her right hand, when her left hand picked out a more colorful option "on its own." Something clearly went wrong when the two hemispheres couldn't communicate in the patients' brains.
The two halves of the brain are very similar, but they are not identical. For example, in most cases, the left half of the brain is the side that has the ability to initiate speech. The prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that is the "decision maker," or the "consciousness") is primarily dominant in the left hemisphere. Since the left hemisphere is home to both the "consciousness" and the ability to create speech, neurologists began to believe that without the corpus callosum, the left hemisphere no longer had control of the right hemisphere. This would mean we each carry around a fully conscious right brain that is the slave to the left brain.
In a testing environment I can't fully explain, neurologists were able to ask questions of the left and right hemispheres separately. One subject was asked what he wanted to do after graduation. his left brain said a draftsman, a very logical choice for a career. But when they asked his right brain, it spelled out "automobile racer."
Another subject was asked what he said he believed about God. His left brain said he was an Atheist. But his right brain said he was a believer.
In the first subject, there was a draftsman and an automobile racer at the same time. In the second, there was a non-believer and a believer, simultaneously.
Have you ever cried at a Disney movie while simultaneously thinking that it's stupid to be crying at something that isn't real? Have you been mad at someone while simultaneously knowing it was illogical to be mad at them because it didn't solve anything? Have you wanted to stick to your diet while simultaneously also wanting a double bacon cheeseburger? Of course you have, because you have two brains, each telling you something different.
I spend a lot of my time thinking. I can have a legitimate conversation between me and myself, and now I understand why. Knowing this thought process is supported by factual science is freeing for me. I don't have to push a certain thought away just because it contradicts the other. In fact, that's exactly the reason I should embrace both views.
In a world that forces duality in every form (republican or democrat, believer or non-believer, black or white, feminine or masculine, practicality or spirituality, science or faith, leader or follower), I find comfort knowing that I have two consciousnesses that give me two completely different perspectives on every issue, and that both view are equally valid.
I'm allowed to be both republican and democrat.
I'm allowed to believe and to not believe.
I'm allowed to be both masculine and feminine.
I'm allowed to believe in science and faith.
I'm allowed to lead and be led.
I'm allowed these things, because my brains told me so.