Now Dale, I don’t know on which New Age book you found this apparently profound statement, but it is just nonsense because:
A gland is a computer
A gland is a computer because it:a) Is a physical object that obeys the laws of physics;
b) Reacts to inputs generated from its environment and produces a corresponding output;
c) Stores and executes electro-chemically coded programs that determine its dynamical responses to its inputs;
d) Its behavior can be fully understood in terms of physical laws;
e) Once its behavior is fully understood, it is possible to design another mechanical device to reproduce the same behavior, or a different behavior considered “better” according to appropriate criteria.
Note that it is "e)" that bears all the weight of superlative hope and conviction in this formulation, and that all the rest are just initial throat clearing gestures in a more or less conventional materialist mode, although, granted, skewed in a rather "cybernetic totalist" way.
Presumably, once something is "fully understood" (notice that "fully"), then it is "possible" (remember, as always, the difference that makes a difference betweem "possible" and "likely") to design "another mechanical device" (somehow once a thing is "understood" it becomes through that understanding a devised thing, perhaps Prisco is a closeted advocate of "Intelligent Design" or something since he keeps flogging this point so interminably -- and, yes, I'm joking), and once one can replace an understood thing one is also assured that it can be replaced with a better thing (no reason why is offered), although "better" is thankfully qualified at least with "according to appropriate criteria" (who specifies and polices these criteria is left as an exercise for the reader).
Hey, far be it from me to deny that when scientists understand stuff they enable greater powers of prediction and control, (some of) which palpably improve our capacities and enrich (some of) our lives.
But I still don't see how any of this justifies going off on a Robot Cultist tear handwaving about imminent superintelligent post-biological Robot Gods ending human history, imminent precisely-controlled self-replicating nanoscale robots delivering superabundance and ending human stakeholder politics, or imminent genetic and prosthetic medical techniques or brain-scanning techniques delivering superlongevity and ending human mortality.
Let's keep our eyes on the ball here. One can easily admit the world is susceptible of scientific analysis, and admit that warranted scientific belief delivers powers of prediction and control, and admit that fantastic capacities are at any rate compatible with logic whatever their remoteness from practical realization all without ever once feeling the slightest transcendental temptation to embrace Singularitarian, Nanosantalogical, or Technological Immortalist nonsense.
Be that as it may, Prisco continues:
Apparently profound but actually nonsensical statements like “the brain is more gland than computer” are frequently used by religious fundamentalists in support of their delusional belief that living organisms are characterized by some nebulous, ineffable “vital spirit” forever beyond the domain of science.
Quite apart from my utter bewilderment at Prisco's apparent perception that saying something as simple and obvious as "the brain is more gland than computer" is some kind of effort at woo-woo mystical pseudo-profundity (I would class it with statements like "dirt is more brown than purple," frankly), I can't for the life of me understand why this observation launches him into a diatribe about "vital spirits" and so on. What's so mystical about a gland? It seems to me that glands are perfectly concrete, technoscientifically intelligible sorts of things. So, I really am curious about Prisco's attribution of this kind of statement to religious fundamentalists.
My challenge? Name one. Name one single religious fundamentalist who has said “the brain is more gland than computer” to make some kind of anti-science point. Name just one, how hard can that be, since you claim it is so frequent?
As for Prisco insisting that glands are computers, that everything caught up in intelligible causality is a computer… I can follow this move easily enough, as it happens. Prisco wants to describe as a “computer” any complex system susceptible of scientific analysis. OK. I think it probably is more useful to distinguish computers from non-computers, inasmuch as it seems to me in common parlance there are plenty of intelligible non-computers in the world, but, hey, I get functionalism, I’m down with it.
I don’t honestly think that's what Prisco is really up to here, though. I think he's just uncritically flinging fetishized terms around and not getting my critique particularly. For Plato the mind was a mirror, for Nietzsche it was a stylus inscribing a surface, for Freud it was a steamworks, now people fetishize the computer as our quintessential tech and now inevitably enough the mind is computer, or more of a neurocomputational network as the popular focus nudges that way.
But all that, I suppose, is neither here nor there.
Am I the only one for whom this latest exchange really seems weird?