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Dominic Lawson's nervous system

In his article in today's Independent on the nature of genius Dominic Lawson makes an odd distinction between the brain and the nervous system. The brain is, of course, part of the nervous system - in fact, it's the main part.

Lawson wants to distinguish betweeen a simple spinal reflex (pulling your hand away from a flame) and what happens when a tennis player such as Roger Federer reacts to a first serve. Federer's response, Lawson implies, is due to his "mind". But this is a bogus distinction. Federer's response is still a reflex, albeit a more complex one involving many more nerve cells than is the case in a spinal reflex. Although the brain mechanism is slower ("less than half a second") because of the number of nerve cells involved, it is not a fundamentally different process. And it does not depend on conscious participation,for which there is no time - in fact, this is precisely why it is so accurate and successful.


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