3 lbs, the new neurosurgery show on CBS, premiered last night. My initial reaction: good, but no Grey’s Anatomy. The show is derivative to the point of banality – if you’re a fan of medical dramas, you can literally predict what the next scene will be – but sometimes repetition can still be entertaining. There are the requisite randy doctors, the gorgeous attendings, the palpable sexual tension, the loud pop music. Needless to say, I don’t want these people touching my brain.
But one aspect of the show leapt out at me. Even as 3 lbs firmly demolishes the myth of brain-mind duality – there is no soul, you are just a mass of gelatinous fatty membrane – it uses its characters to symbolize the seeming chasm between the brain and the mind. The new fellow, Dr. Jonathan Seger, represents all the ethereal elements inside our head: emotion, top-down processing, the nebulous self, etc. Dr. Doug Hanson (Stanley Tucci) sees the brain as nothing but “wires in a box”: he’s the Dennett-esque reductionist, convinced that consciousness is just an epi-phenomenon. Here’s a sample of their witty repartee:
“It’s my experience that the emotional state of the family can impact the physiological resilience of a patient,” Seger tells Hanson.
“I’ve found taking the tumor out of the patient’s skull is fairly effective as well,” Hanson replies.
So which character do I like more? Ordinarily, I side with the mushy anti-reductionists. As I’ve noted before:
Self-consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. Any explanation of our experience solely in terms of our neurons will never explain our experience, because we don’t experience our neurons.
That said, the gruff materialist (Dr. Hanson/Stanley Tucci) has much better jokes.