There’s a young student at this university…who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain…instead of the normal 4.5 centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeter or so. His cranium was filled mainly with cerebrospinal fluid.
So yeah, respected journal Science published an article with the title ‘Is your brain really necessary?’ in 1980. You’d think this would warrant further study maybe. But no. A quick google did turn up this article about a similarly hydrocephallic (ie ‘water on the brain’) woman who has an IQ of 113, higher than 80% of the population, despite having 10-15% of ‘normal’ brain volume. And a couple of other cases reported in news media around the world.
Of course the ‘IQ’ test is often criticised (rightly so I think) as a culturally-biased and entirely outmoded method for measuring what amounts to a very restrictive definition of ‘intelligence’. That’s a whole subject in itself. But presumably IQ tests do at least provide some indication of a person’s aptitude at a particular type of computation.
Now, according to Professor Lorber’s data in the Science article, of those hydrocephallic people studied with the most enlarged ventricles (ie where the cranium was 95% filled with fluid), half of them had IQs greater than 100. Which, by definition, (if I’m not mistaken?), is actually a slightly higher % than you would expect to find in any given population. Now that portion of the sample only amounted to about 60 people or 10% of the total sample, which isn’t much to go basing any grand theories on, but still… further study maybe?!
It does seem like most people online who come across the study are running with it and deciding that it proves brains aren’t necessary at all, that consciousness is therefore non-physical, and so this is empirical proof for the existence of the immortal soul. Really can’t see how they’ve reached that conclusion given that all the people in the study have brains. Logic fail there I think.
Conversely, most so-called skeptics seem to just want to dismiss the study off-hand. Which is quite hard for them to do given that Professor Lorber was a member of the Nobel Prize Committee and his data consisted of 600 CT scans. I’m guessing the article’s sensationalist title didn’t help (not that Lorber wrote that). Most of the critiques I’ve seen amount to nit-picking about his choice of words, or about relatively small discrepancies, without addressing the overall implications or acknowledging the obvious importance of the study.
From Lorber’s wikipedia page -
neurosurgeon Kenneth Till said that Lorber is “overdramatic when he says that someone has ‘virtually no brain.’” Lorber admitted it later, saying that he “was only half serious”, but defends himself with: “I can’t say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it is clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms.” In his later years Lorber expressed great sorrow that more attention had not been paid to his sensational findings.
Which I think is fair enough - they are clearly hugely significant findings regardless of that sort of margin of error when it comes to interpreting the scans (and even if, like me, you don’t agree that IQ tests are actually measuring ‘intelligence’ as such). But especially given the long history and popular discourse of big brains being equated with higher intelligence (even though that association has proved inaccurate), and the many, many theories and often brutal social practices which have followed or been justified by it.
Thoughts? Anyone have any further information on this?