Here is the general introduction that Professor Fr. Alberto Carrara, LC, Coordinator of the Italian Research Group in Neurobioethics adressed yesterday afternoon at the beginning of the XXXVIII Seminary of the Italian Research Group in Neurobioethics: Conscience & Consciousness by Dr. Robert Hesse, Ph.D.
"Welcome to everybody to our monthly seminary dedicated to Conscience and Consciousness. As the Coordinator of the Italian Research Group in Neurobioethics, on behalf of our two Board Directors: Professor Alberto Garcia, director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights and Professor Father Rafael Pascual, LC, director of the Science and Faith Institute of the Regina Apostolorum University here in Rome, I want to welcome doctor Robert Hesse: thanks so much for coming and for sharing with us today your insights in these topics related to neurosciences and human being.
First of all, I want to introduce briefly to you, Doctor Hesse, our Neurobioethics’ Research Group.
Scientific developments in neuroscience have generated potentially contentious issues. These developments affect clinical realms of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry. Philosophical issues have both guided such inquiry and are essential to understanding the complex intersection of neuroscientific progress and ethical domains of research, medical practice and the social impact of these enterprises.
These questions are foundational to the ethical issues inherent to progress in basic and clinical applications of neuroscience. Some of these debates include whether particular interventions represent treatment or enhancement, the use or misuse of neurogenetic and neuroimaging data, moral ambiguities surrounding the use of neural allo- and xeno-transplantation, and ethical dilemmas arising within the contexts of neuroscientific policy, clinical practice and the scope and tenor of current and future research directions.
The initiative has gathered an international group of professionals and researchers from various specialties that periodically meet and work in research groups, sharing ideas, values, interests and experiences. We will adopt an interdisciplinary approach on the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics.
The group will favor the contrasting views and debate on the matters of greater import, based on a deep analysis and critique of the scientific data. It is essential that we integrate the methodology based on sound philosophical and anthropological principles which is centered on the human person. Different spheres of knowledge and of their applications will be integrated within a global network.
The working group also provides proposals and guidelines through conferences, seminars, such as this one dealing with the topic of conscience and consciousness, and publications, etc. This will stimulate cognitive scientists to seek points of contact between the neurosciences and a philosophical-anthropological vision centered on the human person.
Today’s topic deals with a specific and mysterious aspect of human being. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a “person” is a “self-conscious or rational being”. It defines “consciousness” as the property of being “awake and aware of one’s surroundings and identity”.
As some of you remember, our first public event as Research Group in Neurobioethics had “consciousness” as the main theme. It was entitled: Studies on Consciousness and the Dignity of the Human Person, and it took place here in Rome on September 2009. (It was the first workshop of the recently founded Neurobioethics Group of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Italy. Four speakers spoke on the consciousness and the human dignity. They were: Paola Ciadamidaro, an anesthesiologist, who takes care of vegetative state patients, Andrea Sodddu, a physicist of the Liegi Coma Science Group who studies post coma conditions using fMRI, Fr.Jess Villagrasa, a philosopher, expert in metaphysics and Luisella Daziano, a scientific journalist and a bioethicists).
Nowadays neuroscientific developments help us to understand a little bit more that cortical and subcortical regions of our brain interact in complex ways to generate and sustain the conscious and unconscious properties of the human mind. But the brain itself, as the nervous system alone, is not sufficient at all in order to explain the “problem” of “consciousness”.
In a recent book titled: Consciousnessand the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts (Viking edition, 2014), cognitive psychologist Stanislas Dehaene, probing the links between conscious thought and the intricate networks and neurons that comprise our brains, tackles questions of mind-body duality and the relationships between mental activity and the material world that have attracted and perplexed great scientific minds for centuries.
Consciousness is only the tip of the neurological iceberg, in terms of the information our brains receive from sensory stimuli, and Dehaene’s innovative MRI research has identified a series of thresholds whereby information moves from a state of “preconscious” to “conscious” processing.
So, after this context, I want to introduce to you doctor Hesse.
Robert Hesse is an ordained Catholic deacon and Co-founder and President of Contemplative Network (CN) dedicated to interdenominational Christian contemplative prayer. He is an ex-officio board member of CN and is a practicing contemplative in the Trappist Christian tradition. He was inspired at Gethsemani Trappist monastery, at the time home to Trappist monk Thomas Merton. He was appointed by Trappist monk Thomas Keating, Commissioned Presenter/Co-coordinator, Contemplative Outreach Ltd. and Emissary to the M&L Institute for research on contemplatives, in response to an invitation by The Dalai Lama to Keating. Doctor Hesse is Vice Chairman and Faculty member, Institute for Spirituality and Health (ISH), which at 59 years is the oldest such organization in the U.S.A. located in The Texas Medical Center (TMC) the largest medical center in the world by multiple times. He is also Visiting Instructor, Rice University and Pontifical University Rome, and Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas (UST). His interests include the convergence of science and religion: physics-metaphysics, chemistry-life, biology-consciousness, and psychology-mysticism.
He has special interest in healing suffering from mental illness.
He has given numerous presentations internationally. He holds a B.Th. in theology from UST and a B.S. in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from St. Louis University.
He was President/Founder of energy consulting company HEI having traveled to over 60 countries often establishing international consortia. His last engagement was Project Manager on the planning of two major energy projects in Israel.
He is widowed with 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
Doctor Hesse’s presentation deals with Conscience and Consciousness.
BIOLOGY TO CONSCIOUSNESS
Conscience & Consciousness
Deacon Robert Hesse Ph.D.
Subjective - Feeling
Legalistic - Prescriptive
Principled – Faith & Reason
Physical – Body (Reason/Science)
Spiritual – Soul (Faith/Theology)
CONSCIOUSNESS (External Self-Awareness)
CONSCIENCE (Internal Moral Guide)
BIOLOGICAL: Functioning Brain
INFORMATIONAL: Truth Input
SPIRITUAL: Indwelling Spirit
CONSCIENCE & CONSCIOUSNESS
Five Senses Input
Sight (Senses) ≠ Insight*
Consciousness Total Brain?
* Michael May couldn’t identify objects, faces, and depth.
The Scripture’s interpretation of the Gospel’s blind miracles.
e.g. Medicine, Science
e.g. Religion, State
CONSCIENCE & CONSCIOUSNESS
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you” - John 13:34
Church Law – Faith
Natural Law – Reason
Ordinary Human Dignity
Don’t Intentionally Kill
Honor Other’s Wishes
Minimize Other’s Suffering
Act/Omission Can’t be Evil
Intent Must be Good
Good Can’t Result from Bad
Good Must be ≥ Bad
Ej. His mother and antibiotics
Act/Omission Morally Wrong
Only Informed Conscience
Only God Knows
Only God Knows
Ej. Bipolar, lithium therapy: overdoses
CONFIRMATION BIAS * original sin
Automatic & unintentional
Not deliberate deception
Cognitive & mechanistic
Evidence confirming beliefs
Irrational primacy effect
SPIRITUAL PRAYER : the only way to overcome confirmation bias ???
Lectio Divina (Scripture)
Centering Prayer (God)
Guided Meditation (Body)
Compassion Meditation (Love)
Brain Growth (Frontal lobe growth)
Lower Blood Pressure
SAVING people from religion
NEGATING religious beliefs/believers
MARGINALIZING religious liberty
LIFE & CULTURE
Start (Conception) - Abortion
End (Death) - Euthanasia
CONCEPTION - FERTILITY
2.1a US (With Immigration)
1.8b France c
1.4 Europe (31 Country Average)
* Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is number of children per woman
a Minimum to sustain culture
b No culture has ever reversed 1.9 or below
c Islamic rate = 8.1
PERSONALTIES* & DYING
Perfectionists – Anger & Guilt
Helpers – Anger
Achievers – Anger
Romantics – Denial & Guilt
Observers – Denial, Bargaining, & Guilt
Questioners – Guilt
Adventurers – Denial
Asserters – Denial & Guilt
Peacemakers – Denial & Anger
Ordinary Human Dignity
Don’t Intentionally Kill
Honor Patient’s Wishes
Minimize Patient’s Suffering
Health Care Proxy
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
Emergency Document Access*
Family & Doctor Discussions
* e.g. DocuBank at www.docubank.com
Full – All Available Treatments
Partial – Specify Non-Treatments
None – No Extraordinary Means