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Who Am I?

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The "mind" and "self" were formerly the domain of philosophers and priests. But in this hour of Radiolab, neurologists lead the charge on profound questions like "How does the brain make me?"

We stare into the mirror with Dr. Julian Keenan, reflect on the illusion of selfhood with British neurologist Paul Broks, and contemplate the evolution of consciousness with Dr. V. S. Ramachandran. Also: the story of woman who one day woke up as a completely different person.

Guests:

Paul Broks, Dr. Julian Keenan, Hannah Palin, Dr. V.S. Ramachandran and Dr. Robert Sapolsky

Where is that part that is "me"?

Looking into a mirror as a young child, Steven Johnson wondered, "How is that me?" We try to find that part of the brain that recognizes ones self with Montclair State University Professor Julian Keenan. Turns out: only half of your brain really knows who you are. Also, Independent radio producer Hannah Palin tells about her mother, who, after suffering an aneurism, woke up with a completely different personality. She looks the same, and has the same memories, but where did her old mother go? One possible answer: Vietnam. Later, Paul Broks continues the discussion on the fragility of the self.

Comments [9]

The Story of Me

We visit U.C. San Diego Neurologist, V.S.Ramachandran who tells us about the evolution of human consciousness…or the difference between the way we think of some abstraction, like love and the way a baboon thinks of a rear end. Something in the way our brain operates tells us about our ability to imagine and perceive ourselves. Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land, invites us into his childhood dreams, inhabited by tiny little men whom he had no control over. Robert Louis Stevenson, famed spinner of dark tales, had his own little men in his head, that he exploited for fame and profit.

Comments [10]

I haven't been myself lately

Robert Sapolsky, a Neuroscience Professor at Stanford University, relates how porous the boundary can be between two distinct selves, and how maybe this is a perfectly healthy phenomenon.

Read more:

Robert Sapolsky's The Trouble with Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

Comments [4]

Comments [50]

DWELLENS from Imperial Beach, CA

The problem with this episode is that it is based on a faulty premise, that the mind is in the brain. In truth, the brain, the body, and the entire universe is in the mind, being projected outward like a 3D movie, which is why none of the segments were able to fully answer WHO AM I.

Brains do no thinking, only the mind. The brain is a complex processor that does only what the mind directs. Our state of mind dictates the state of our experience, which is what explains the ‘placebo effect’. What we believe (think) becomes our reality.

WHO AM I is more accurately stated as WHAT AM I? We are so bonded to the concept of limited physical form defining ‘me’, the idea of our reality being something like formless mind is too disconcerting to grasp, but that is our WHAT.

One need only delve into the phenomena of near-death experiences (NDEs) and past/in-between life progressions to realize we are NOT our body. WHO we seem to be has been an artificially ‘separated’ mind, traversing time, and projecting out a myriad of separate Prodigal Parable misadventures.

Cause & Effect, and the Law of Projection are the two most fundamental principles in understanding WHAT we are. What the mind believes, creates our experience (Cause & Effect). How it does this is through projection. Every dream we have when we sleep demonstrates this principle. Through projection, we actually create and destroy universes all the time in our dreams, but, because their ‘reality’ is illusory in origin, they have no lasting effects.

Think of things in terms of our story vs our REALITY. Our story (what we choose to believe about our ‘self’: race, gender, body type, culture, language, etc.) is projected out ‘into’ an illusory universe that is as transitory and ever-changing as our experience in it. Compare that with what everyone realizes on some level, that LOVE (without form, like mind), is the most important thing ‘in’ the universe, and we have a good indication of an ETERNAL REALITY that supersedes the form of our story.

Now we are able to start honing in on the question you were attempting to answer. Formless LOVE, which is an ‘idea’ in the mind, is WHAT we are, regardless of whatever story we seem to come up with. The only reason why brain-worshippers can seem to hone in on areas of the brain that can be seen as LOVE-receptors, is that they are witnessing an EFFECT of the thought of LOVE in the mind. The brain generates nothing.

All is mind, and there is nothing else. The entire concept of ‘separate’ minds is the basis of all illusion. This becomes evident in every experience we have when we CONNECT with another in LOVE and realize ONENESS, not separation.

ONENESS in LOVE is our REALITY, all else is illusion. The WHAT we are is LOVE, the WHO we are is simply our story.

Jul. 28 2014 10:04 AM
Charlie D'oh from Durham, NC

The Homunculus Revealed

The surgeon probes: What’s this? Nurse! Look at this!
Nurse: My God, doctor. Quick. Catch him, before he digs into that tissue.
Surgeon: Got him
The surgeon Holds up tiny little man by the scruff of his collar with tweezers
Tiny Little Voice: Hey, put me down you son of a bitch. Put me down. If you don’t put me back in there (pointing at patient’s brain) I’m gonna tell God.
Surgeon: OK, OK. Take it easy.First I’m gonna put you in the palm of my hand so I don’t choke you.
He turns to the nurse: Nurse, squeeze some of that jelly on my hand so he can’t run away.
He puts the little man on his gloved hand and the little man tries to run but slips and slides and falls into the gelatinous goo on top of the latex surface.
Surgeon: Hah hah hah.
Tiny Little Voice: Look here, you over-paid, self-important, manually dexterous fat head: you do not know who you are dealing with. I can put in a call to my cousin… up there. The little man points to the surgeon’s head.
Surgeon: (incredulous) No, You can’t?
Tiny Little Man: Yes I can. So if you don’t put me back, I’ll get Larry up there to make you grope your nurse friend, right here in this operating theater, in front of all these technicians. You will never work in this hospital again, I can tell you that.
The Nurse looks at the doctor, fear and desire dancing across her face.
The surgeon notices the nurse’s expression and in a flash he too succumbs to a rush of mixed feelings. But his rational thought rallies inexplicably, as if driven by some unseen force. Well, OK. But let me just do one little experiment.
Tiny Little Man: You mean on him?…the patient there, etherized upon the table. What you gonna do? Recite some poetry to see how he processes it without me in there?
Surgeon: No, not poetry, not on him. That’s a good idea, though.
Tiny Little Man: Wait, let me guess: You want to know if I have a homunculus?
Surgeon: Well, sort of. Let me ask you something. How do you feel about yourself?
Tiny Little Man. Huh? What do you mean. Like, do I like myself? So you are asking if, in the act of liking, I would like me liking me? Jeez…..Believe me, there is no profit in that kind of stuff. I have a great uncle, Lenny, he got caught in a storm of infinite regress like that when his host got out of the shower one day…I say, just leave it alone, the subject, that is; just leave it be. And put me back, god dammit or I’m gonna call my cousin.

The neurosurgeon and the nurse scramble to complete the procedure, pop the skull back on, and gather all the technicians in a circle. Repeat after me, the surgeon says, urgently looking each of them in the eye: What goes on the Broadman Area Four between the precentral sulcus in front, the medial longitudinal fissure at the top, the central sulcus in back, and the lateral sulcus along the bottom, stays there.

from the blog, CharlieD'oh, at
http://charliedoh.blogspot.com/2014/01/self-employed-ii.html

Jul. 28 2014 01:12 AM
Julian from North Carolina

Outstanding show! There were a few trivial errors but on the whole it was extremely well done. It's interesting how the view of self as understood by modern neuroscience is very similar to the view of "not self" (anatman) taught by in the buddhist tradition.

Jul. 27 2014 07:46 PM
stan klein

sorry about the repat posts. Office computer slow and my index finger too fast.

Jul. 27 2014 05:23 PM
stan klein from UCSB

Ignore previous comment -- too full of typos.

Please. this is a public information station. Try to get folk who (a) know the topic, (b) know the issues and (c) can even offer a coherent idea of the topic (e.g., self) without reversion into incoherent circularity (e.g., the host cleverly croons the "self is a story the self tells itself". Oh my god!!

These "experts" have no clue to the logical incoherence of their blather -- e.g.the UK "expert worries, "an immaterial self? No. How would we know when we found it?"

Well, I do not know. And neither do you. But immaterial does not necessarily mean it cannot be known. Not everything knowable is knowable by science (if there is a proof to the contrary produce it and win a Nobel prize for comprehending a method of demonstrating conclusively all reality.)

The inability to know the nature of reality in its fullness (not just its [possibly complete] material aspects) could be true at almost any time (electrons? How would we Greeks of 450BC know when we found one?)

And please, no materialist presumptions (else stop blithering on about what is in the mind of worms and monkey or even people. You do not know and cannot know. Radiology is correlative neural action and not numerically identical with thought). 2000 years ago no one could even imagine a world in which subatomic particles could be known (they could, and did, imagine atoms might exist, but no ideas were available for how one would know ever detect their presence).

Science changes in ways that are predictable (but not with great accuracy). Aspects of the self have no apparent material presence -- despite the ready availability neuro-scientific promissory notes to the contrary!: But that is a materialist hubris and more; it is simply the expression of a prejudice that "current" techniques cannot -- and thus never shall -- capture aspects of reality that we are unable to see and touch (even 2nd or 3rd hand). Says who? Proof? Reduction is an obvious lazy and ill-conceived goal for those too uninformed to consider the conceptual of their stance.

This is not an argument for dualism, immaterialism, pluralism, non-reductive physical monism... It is to say the material reduction is dogma -- not logically or empirically sanctioned knowledge.

As for the self. get someone on your show who actually has an appreciation of the issues and an understanding of the complexities so we don't have to listen to (a) self-referential question begging propositions or (b) pontification absent familiarity with either the conceptual issues or even the empirical findings (for example, I have published several papers showing amnesics with no episodic memory (i.e., narrative deficit) can have a diachronic sense of self with little problem.)

I am now rambling and I don't feel like editing or going further. Just a final statement -- you do a serious issue no public good when you broadcast such uninformed nonsense as authoritative.

Jul. 27 2014 05:15 PM
stan klein from UCSB

Ignore previous comment -- too full of typos.

Please. this is a public information station. Try to get folk who (a) know the topic, (b) know the issues and (c) can even offer a coherent idea of the topic (e.g., self) without reversion into incoherent circularity (e.g., the host cleverly croons the "self is a story the self tells itself". Oh my god!!

These "experts" have no clue to the logical incoherence of their blather -- e.g.the UK "expert worries, "an immaterial self? No. How would we know when we found it?"

Well, I do not know. And neither do you. But immaterial does not necessarily mean it cannot be known. Not everything knowable is knowable by science (if there is a proof to the contrary produce it and win a Nobel prize for comprehending a method of demonstrating conclusively all reality.)

The inability to know the nature of reality in its fullness (not just its [possibly complete] material aspects) could be true at almost any time (electrons? How would we Greeks of 450BC know when we found one?)

And please, no materialist presumptions (else stop blithering on about what is in the mind of worms and monkey or even people. You do not know and cannot know. Radiology is correlative neural action and not numerically identical with thought). 2000 years ago no one could even imagine a world in which subatomic particles could be known (they could, and did, imagine atoms might exist, but no ideas were available for how one would know ever detect their presence).

Science changes in ways that are predictable (but not with great accuracy). Aspects of the self have no apparent material presence -- despite the ready availability neuro-scientific promissory notes to the contrary!: But that is a materialist hubris and more; it is simply the expression of a prejudice that "current" techniques cannot -- and thus never shall -- capture aspects of reality that we are unable to see and touch (even 2nd or 3rd hand). Says who? Proof? Reduction is an obvious lazy and ill-conceived goal for those too uninformed to consider the conceptual of their stance.

This is not an argument for dualism, immaterialism, pluralism, non-reductive physical monism... It is to say the material reduction is dogma -- not logically or empirically sanctioned knowledge.

As for the self. get someone on your show who actually has an appreciation of the issues and an understanding of the complexities so we don't have to listen to (a) self-referential question begging propositions or (b) pontification absent familiarity with either the conceptual issues or even the empirical findings (for example, I have published several papers showing amnesics with no episodic memory (i.e., narrative deficit) can have a diachronic sense of self with little problem.)

I am now rambling and I don't feel like editing or going further. Just a final statement -- you do a serious issue no public good when you broadcast such uninformed nonsense as authoritative.

Jul. 27 2014 05:14 PM
stan klein from UCSB

Ignore previous comment -- too full of typos.

Please. this is a public information station. Try to get folk who (a) know the topic, (b) know the issues and (c) can even offer a coherent idea of the topic (e.g., self) without reversion into incoherent circularity (e.g., the host cleverly croons the "self is a story the self tells itself". Oh my god!!

These "experts" have no clue to the logical incoherence of their blather -- e.g.the UK "expert worries, "an immaterial self? No. How would we know when we found it?"

Well, I do not know. And neither do you. But immaterial does not necessarily mean it cannot be known. Not everything knowable is knowable by science (if there is a proof to the contrary produce it and win a Nobel prize for comprehending a method of demonstrating conclusively all reality.)

The inability to know the nature of reality in its fullness (not just its [possibly complete] material aspects) could be true at almost any time (electrons? How would we Greeks of 450BC know when we found one?)

And please, no materialist presumptions (else stop blithering on about what is in the mind of worms and monkey or even people. You do not know and cannot know. Radiology is correlative neural action and not numerically identical with thought). 2000 years ago no one could even imagine a world in which subatomic particles could be known (they could, and did, imagine atoms might exist, but no ideas were available for how one would know ever detect their presence).

Science changes in ways that are predictable (but not with great accuracy). Aspects of the self have no apparent material presence -- despite the ready availability neuro-scientific promissory notes to the contrary!: But that is a materialist hubris and more; it is simply the expression of a prejudice that "current" techniques cannot -- and thus never shall -- capture aspects of reality that we are unable to see and touch (even 2nd or 3rd hand). Says who? Proof? Reduction is an obvious lazy and ill-conceived goal for those too uninformed to consider the conceptual of their stance.

This is not an argument for dualism, immaterialism, pluralism, non-reductive physical monism... It is to say the material reduction is dogma -- not logically or empirically sanctioned knowledge.

As for the self. get someone on your show who actually has an appreciation of the issues and an understanding of the complexities so we don't have to listen to (a) self-referential question begging propositions or (b) pontification absent familiarity with either the conceptual issues or even the empirical findings (for example, I have published several papers showing amnesics with no episodic memory (i.e., narrative deficit) can have a diachronic sense of self with little problem.)

I am now rambling and I don't feel like editing or going further. Just a final statement -- you do a serious issue no public good when you broadcast such uninformed nonsense as authoritative.

Jul. 27 2014 05:13 PM
stan klein from UCSB

I just had the misfortune of hearing a part of your podcast "who am I". I had to pull over the car to listen -- almost beyond belief what these so-called "experts" were saying (one of the hosts, Rmamsamdran and some UK neuro psychologist).

Please. this is a public information station. Try to get folk who (a) know the topic, (b) know the issues and (c) can even offer a coherent idea of the topic (self) without reversion into endless, incoherent circularity (e.g., the host cleverly croons the "self is a story the self tells itself".

Oh my god!!

These "experts" have no clue to the logical incoherence of their blather -- e.g., "an immaterial self? No. How would we know when we found it?"

The same lack of insight into the nature of reality could be posed to any one at almost any time (electron? How would we Greeks of antiquity know when we found one? And please, no materialist presumptions (else stop blithering on about what is in the mind of worms and monkey or even people). 2000 years ago no one could even imagine a world in which subatomic particles could be known (they could, and did imagine they might exist, but no ideas were available for how one would know their presence).

Science changes and in ways that are predictable (but not with any accuracy). A self (or soul, or consciousness) has no apparent material presence -- despite neroscientific promissory notes!): But that is a materialist prejudice and more, it is a prejudice that "current" techniques cannot and thus never shall capture aspects of reality that we are unable to see and touch (even 2nd or 3rd hand).

Who made our personal cognitive and perceptual limitations the arbiter of what is real? To close the door is simply hubris and contradicted by the very principles of modern science (Plank's tiny spaces and the vast undetermined nature of reality beyond the light cone. this is not an argument for dualism, immaterialism, pluralism, non-reductive physical monism... It is to say the material reduction is dogma not logically or empirically sanctioned knowledge.

As for the self. get someone on who has an understanding of the complexities so we don't have to listen to (a) self-referential question begging propositions or (b) pontification absent familiarity with either the conceptual issues or even the empirical findings (I have published several findings showing amnesics with no episodic memory (i.e., narrative deficit) can have a diachronic sense of self with little issue.

I am now rambling and I don't feel like editing or going further. Just a final statement -- you do a serious issue public good when you broadcast such uninformed hubris.

Jul. 27 2014 04:53 PM
Eric Hamell from Philadelphia, PA

Chimpanzees are not monkeys. They are apes (as are humans by one pretty strong cladistic argument).

Jul. 27 2014 01:20 PM
Eric Hamell from Philadelphia, PA

Chimpanzees are not monkeys. They are apes (as are humans by one pretty strong cladistic argument).

Jul. 27 2014 01:19 PM
DesertPoc from San Diego, Ca.

Pertaining to the lady that had an aneurysm, I also had an aneurysm in May 21, 1998. I relate to what she said, during my time of being in a coma I dreamed I was in Heaven, which consisted of a beautiful sky - troparia (sp), tall flowing trees (eucalyptus trees) and an angel guide who was very tall plus crowds of people. Then while recovering I was in a war. Since, I have always felt that I died on May 21, 1998 and became another person - such as the woman/mother related within the lab. Thank you for this interview.

Jul. 26 2014 03:44 PM
Vince Petrovsky from Lake Worth, Florida

The lady claiming to have a recollection of a farmer in Vietnam, possibly had her soul replaced by the soul of the man, who's last lifetime was a farmer in Vietnam. These are what are called "Walk Ins" which means that the soul of the body was exchanged for another soul without the body going through a death experience. Modern thinking only thinks of new souls coming to the planet by birth. However, when one ponders this, this is very inefficient process for a soul wanting to come to this planet. Most bodies contain souls and the soul never experiences death, only the body does. When the lady in the story was taken to the hospital, her soul was looking for an exit and the new replacement soul needed a body. The proof is that that the daughter actually grieved the loss of her mother, when her soul realized that the soul in her mother's body wasn't her mother's anymore.

Just because someone does not believe something, does not mean it does not exist. Belief is how our mind navigates through this dimension, and belief can change as one grows and experiences life. One's mind controls one's belief.

I casually met a woman who went through a drastic personality change in her 30's, and became a completely different person with the same body. This is an example of a "Walk In." I know of two other people who have experienced the same thing once in their lifetime. The memory of the previous person is integrated with the new soul so that life can carry on in the "new" body.

Jul. 26 2014 12:43 PM
myname from location

Anesthetizing each brain hemisphere is not trivial as the story implies. It's a quite invasive procedure, requiring insertion of a catheter in the femoral artery and guiding it to the left (or right) internal carotid artery in the lower neck to inject the barbiturate drug used. The procedure isn't performed on both hemispheres the same day; it's repeated another day for the other hemisphere.

Since this is a diagnostic procedure used before some types of brain surgery, the subjects tested were likely not a "normal population," and thus the results might not apply to the general population.

Jul. 25 2014 10:43 PM
Ed G. from Central Massachusetts

Thanks for a fascinating discussion of intimate and yet fundamental issues regarding the nexus of consciousness and identity.

I am a layman when it comes to cognitive science but have two observations to offer, if I may:

First, your stories reminded me of a different story about discoveries in neuroscience that I heard somewhere online (or on NPR) a few weeks ago and that I just found in print here: the idea that the "claustrum" is the "router" (my term) between the two hemispheres acting as the kernel of consciousness:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329762.700-consciousness-onoff-switch-discovered-deep-in-brain.html

Second, your pieces made sense with regard to the conscious experience of individuals as an interaction between the "rational" and "emotional" memories and mechanisms that seem operating in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, respectively; however, I would respectively take issue with the notion that our "identities" are as finely grained as you suggested.

On the contrary (imo), we rely on "personal" factors such as sex, race, family, ethnicity, religion, profession, etc. to define ourselves as we grow from infants into adults. Those "abstractions" - however much they are grounded in concrete realities - are far more important to the definition of "who we are" as individuals than are the very specific personal experiences that each of us encounters (cases of trauma as exceptions to the rule, perhaps... and even then, our "identity" within the confines of these larger constructs usually survives and prevails).

Perhaps the core function of the claustrum (and this is just conjecture, of course) is to connect the "concept" of these distinct factors as formulated in the left-side of the brain with the "memory" in each of our unique experiences as registered in the right hemisphere... and without that connection, all notion of consciousness and identity is meaningless.

Jul. 25 2014 06:06 PM
Brian from Baltimore

Fellow Radiolab Junkies! Help me compile a list of the music the ever-so-secretive Jad uses in episodes. Seriously, even if you just know one song it would be a huge help.
http://notaclever1.blogspot.com/

P.S.: If you help you will feel a warm and fuzzy feeling in your gut.

Nov. 11 2013 07:05 PM

It's been know for some time that face recognition is located in the right hemisphere: damage to that center causes prosopagnosia. So it's not suprising that the right brain is necessary for recognizing our own faces.

May. 31 2013 06:52 PM
Ron Helpman LCSW from New York City

Not that surprising that the right hemisphere is involved in recognizing your own face. Been known for quite some time that face recognition is located in the right brain.

May. 31 2013 06:40 PM
HB

A compelling story with some massaging of the facts, as sometimes happens...how did we get to "without the right hemisphere we wouldn't really know who we are" and "the right hemisphere..gives us self-awareness" (about 14 minutes in) when the result were about beign able to *visually* recognize *images* of (or similar to) oneself? The study suggests the right hemisphere does, or helps us, "visually recognize images of ourselves" and it not the same thing as the much larger broader claim of it "giving us self-awareness" - self awareness goes way beyond visually recognizing images of oneself. The sense of the self, who we are, what we are, even *that* we are (as a separate entity from "everything else) includes far more than what the study suggests 14 minute in when these leaps are made.

May. 26 2013 06:17 PM
Anne Hudson from Newton, MA

Fascinating program, so much so that I drove around the entire hour listening to it because I didn't want to miss even a few minutes of it.

MIT cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky proposed that the mind is not a single entity but a society in his book, Society of Mind. Although I had not worked out all the details of my theory, in ninth grade I drew a picture of my mind in ninth that represented a motley assembly of my activities and concerns as rodents seated on benches while a facilitator mouse tried to give appropriate amounts of time and attention to each of the voices of my assembled mice/functions.

The Otherness of the dark side of the self is not new. Artistic inspiration as an Other goes back to the ancient idea of the Muse.

May. 26 2013 01:29 PM
jeffrey zygar from Poulsbo, WA

Felt surprised you did not bring up Dr. Eben Alexander's experience he wrote about in "Proof of Heaven," which approaches the "Who am I?" question more subjectively. He does have some support from his colleagues that his brain could not have had the experience he had, and in that way, gives objective input to his experience.

May. 26 2013 12:32 PM
Steven Dante

University of California, Berkley philosophy professor John Searle has some very interesting material on consciousness. I've listerned to some of his lectures on youtube.com.

May. 26 2013 12:28 PM
Rick Evans from 10473

A chimpanzee is not a monkey.

May. 25 2013 03:11 PM
Accra Shepp from New York

When considering the case of the woman who had the aneurysm, a scientist said (I'm paraphrasing here) that we are all an accident away from becoming someone else. Afterwards Jad asks the scientist Paul Broks, what keeps us consistent from day to day.

But if you think about it, we don't stay the same from day to day, neither our physical self nor our mental self. Every day we change into the person we are becoming in that moment. The person that each of us is right now is absolutely different from the person who in previous years might have felt differently about a person now dear or was unaware of a song (yet to be written) that now brings a smile to the face.

The brain is a dynamic organ, constantly changing, adding, editing, becoming - us. So perhaps injury or trauma, instead of upsetting a stasis that never existed, actually alters the change that occurs. Perhaps it speeds it up or slows it down, maybe it effects the very nature of the change, so that instead of building on the narrative from which we construct our lives, it begins a brand new one.

While listening I was reminded of a philosophy lecture in college in which the professor asked us to consider this dilemma. The actual atoms that make up the body of our billions of cells is changing all the time. Imagine a bathtub with the water flowing out the drain and water coming in through the tap. The water level never changes, but the water in the tub is constantly new water. A few structures in the body are longer lived. According to a New York Times article from 2005, the DNA in the cell nucleus and the cells of your bones last about ten years. Considering this information, how is it that we feel a sense of continuity, a sense of permanence within this flow?

May. 25 2013 12:58 PM
Zo Halton

I always find your show interesting. However, I was shocked last night to hear a quote of Pres. Clinton's that he does not deserve to have dug up again. I am grateful to Pres. Clinton and his family (New York State residents and probably listeners to WNYC) for all they have done for this country and this world. Doesn't he deserve respect for this? Or are you really so unforgiving? I think it was a cheap shot.

May. 24 2013 06:00 PM

Thank you so much for this fascinating program.
I would suggest that it is the height of human egotism to believe we know anything whatsoever about the perception of reality by other species... we have no way of knowing what the perceptions of an earthworm or of any other fellow life form are... We have not yet come to fully understand ourselves, let alone other species.
Thanks again, your programs are always a welcome treat (they are "brain candy" of the highest order)

May. 24 2013 12:42 PM
Joe from Elmira, Or

Instead of a past or future life, perhaps the little old man Vegetable farmer the lady saw may be a real person living right now who had an experience similar to hers. Perhaps her soulmate or some such thing. It would be interesting to know if a man in Vietnam woke up one day thinking he was a little old American lady.

May. 23 2013 10:15 PM
Lord Snooty from UK

Another new listener. series 1 episode 1, looking forward to the next 6 months listening!

May. 19 2013 05:54 PM
Dale

my s+e teacher told me about radiolab for an assignment and now i listen to it whenever i am doing homework

Mar. 06 2013 04:37 AM
Patricia from Chile

I am a big fan of Radio Lab. I leaned about this show in my English classes and I loved it Since the first time. Thank you to all of you!

Jan. 24 2013 09:41 PM
Fern

I am a HUGE Radio Lab fan!
AMAZED by Hannah's mom's story.
I'd really like to know more. Did they collaborate on a book, by any chance?

Thanks for a great show!

Aug. 02 2012 01:55 PM
Hannah Rush from Omaha, Nebraska

I am such a Radio Lab junky - I have listened to every episode numerous times. Cannot get enough. Seriously, marry me you two wonderful people?!

Jul. 12 2012 11:43 AM
studentoflife

I just wanted to say that it sounds like Hannah's mother's accident made her awesome. Now she likes to sing, doesn't worry about death, and loves sex. What's the downside?

May. 16 2012 05:24 PM
Gabriel from Living Room

I am disappointed.

Apr. 26 2012 08:53 PM
Theresa from Chicago, IL

Thank you for existing Radiolab.

Apr. 03 2012 04:23 PM
Parker from Boulder, CO

Anyone what song is playing at 17:30 or so? Please share if you have any idea!

Mar. 20 2012 04:47 PM
margaret from Atlanta, GA

C'mon, guys. Chimps are not monkeys.

Feb. 25 2012 11:16 AM
jenn from NYC

Finally decided to listen to the "Who am I" episode.. I'm about half way through and felt the need to share, that as a coma survivor and a victim of that 'one car crash away' from loosing yourself, this episode is amazing, comforting, and very thought provoking. I've struggled with the idea of myself for the last 10 years and its always fantastic to hear new ideas and conversations about the topic. As always, great job Radio Lab.

Jan. 25 2012 03:33 PM

I just found out about Radiolab today and I love it! It makes me think and open my mind to whole new things. I listened to the cast entitled "Words" and fell in love. I've downloaded two pod casts and listen to them when I'm doing my homework tonight. Keep up the great work guys. oh yea, Thanks to my English teacher for introducing me to RadioLab!

Jan. 18 2012 03:08 PM
Kiefer from ON, Canada

Hello,
After listening to the story of Hannah's mother, i could help but be reminded of the story of Mark Hogancamp and his creation 'Marwencol'.

Oct. 26 2011 11:51 AM
Alex B from Oregon

Wow, I didn't realize OPB radio was playing such old episodes of Radiolab. But a fascinating piece on Hannah's mother. It's interesting to consider how much of the dramatic change was the result of some aspects of her personality being re-set, via the shedding some of her inhibiting social conditioning and/or the re-wiring of parts of her brain. And how much was an independent process of coming to the realization that life is too fragile to get excessively mired in superficial minutia.

Oct. 22 2011 04:35 PM
Tomás

i don't know if any of you had the opportunity of reading 1Q84, the Haruki Murakami novel...
Well, i just want to say that now i know where the little people came from

Aug. 24 2011 09:44 AM
Kat from Brooklyn, NY

i is you is we =)

Apr. 14 2011 06:11 PM
AHarburg from Ann Arbor

I found the commentary by one of the neuroscientists a little irritating. He states that he doesn't believe the soul is immaterial then asks what it would look like if one found it. If it's immaterial (which is not synonymous with substance-less) it means it is not material thus cannot be experienced by the senses. It is beyond it.

Apr. 01 2011 05:20 PM
Simon F from Miami, Florida

I was very interested in the "little people" segment. Now I want to go to sleep and see if I too can trigger an amazing story.

Feb. 23 2011 12:55 AM
Aline from Paris

Such an amazing documentary! Hannah Palin's account of her mother's story actually made me smile and cry and the same time...
Beautiful and informative. Love it.

Feb. 12 2011 09:53 AM
Martin Z from New Zealand

How in the world can you guys do a program entitled "Who Am I?" without any mention of the concept of non-duality?

Although generally considered as belonging to the spiritual realm (Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, etc.), non-duality is a "singularity" or Void which many scientific explorers - of both the physical and psychological worlds - are increasingly finding themselves staring into, however reluctantly.

You dance to the edge of the precipice, revealing the notion of self (ego) as nothing more than a narrative, in essence, illusion perpetuated by memory. You even flirt with the well-worn analogy of becoming lost in the drama of a movie, which is clearly nothing more than a series of still frames (thoughts/mentations) strung together in time (memory) to give the illusion of substance or continuity (self).

But the movie, however captivating, only exists because of the screen the light is projected on, which remains prior, timeless, unchanged and unperturbed throughout. The screen is Awareness, and that Awareness (the "I am" that has no attributes) is ultimately the only irreducible answer to your question.

Of course, we cannot truly KNOW this true self in any intellectual sense, we can only BE it. Just as the eye ("I") has space enough to hold the entire world, and yet cannot see itself.

"The mind cannot know what is beyond the mind, but the mind is known by what is beyond it."
-Nisargadatta

Feb. 07 2011 03:33 AM
Simon-P from Montréal

I don't really like the description "The "mind" and "self" were formerly the domain of philosophers and priests." ... like if it was no more than science domain. Philosophy is a normative project and not a descriptive one like science... or even when it pretends to be descriptive, it is on an other level than science. (You cannot say Kant was an "old-school" psychologist. Why? Because he doesn't describe the mind itself but the necessity of certain mind capacities in order to tell for sure that we can deduce from seing object A hitting object B that A "causes" B.)

Your own show about emergence is anyway a sign that reductionnism is not necessarily the best epistemic theory (and even though you accept reductionnism, you cannot "reduce" a science and philosophy).

Dec. 05 2010 04:58 PM

Totally Loved It!!!!!

Nov. 20 2010 10:00 PM
Lyssa from astoria, ny

hey guys! great work. i'm hooked.

i was wondering about the piece of music you play during the sleep podcast. i want it! what is it? i think you play a few, but this one is on for a while; it's very atmospheric. reminds me of waves. i love it.

Nov. 18 2010 03:29 PM
James Bros from Brooklyn College

I am at my college cafe library on the computer listening to "Who I am" for an exam tomorrow and I actually like it. it is very educational to listen to Radiolab about "Who am I" espisode 1. Thank to my professor for introduce me to Radiolab

Nov. 07 2010 09:02 PM

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