The late Dr. Carl Sagan is famous for many different contributions to both scientific research and science education.
One memorable line is discussed in Are we really star-stuff from the interior of collapsing stars?
In the video Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science) at about
01:30 Dr. Sagan can be heard to say:
“But the brain does much more than just recollect it inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes, it generates abstractions. The simplest thought like the concept of the number one has an elaborate logical underpinning. The brain has its own language for testing the structure and consistency of the world.”
What might Dr. Sagan be referring to in the sentence "The brain has its own language for testing the structure and consistency of the world."?
Question: Is this hypothetical "language" a way that information is exchanged between different parts of the brain? Is this concept part of some well known theory of brain function at the time? How is this viewed now, nearly forty years later?
A longer quote (from the episode) for context:
The brain is a very big place in a very small space. Most of the books in the brain are up here in the cerebral cortex. Down there, in the basement of the brain are the functions that our ancestors mainly depended on for survival: Aggression, child rearing, sex the willingness to follow leaders blindly. Lots of things that we can still recognize in our lives today.
Of the higher brain functions some of them, like reading, writing, speaking seem to be located in particular places in the cerebral cortex.
On the other hand, each memory seems to be stored in many separate locales in the brain. Old memories are in lots of places. Here is one of my earliest memories.
(POURS LIQUID) MOTHER: That's a good boy. Lunch is almost ready. (CLICKS ON RADIO) (MUSIC PLAYS)
That was a long time ago. But its imprint has not faded in the library of this brain. But the brain does much more than just recollect. It inter-compares. It synthesizes. It analyzes. It generates abstractions. The simplest thought, like the concept of the number one has an elaborate, logical underpinning.
The brain has its own language for testing the world's structure and consistency. But we never see the machinery of logical analysis only the conclusions. There is so much more that we must figure out than the genes can know. That's why the brain library has 10,000 times more information in it than the gene library. Our passion for learning is the tool for our survival. And unlike the musty bindings of our gene library in which hardly a word changes in a century the brain library is made of loose-leaf books.
We're constantly adding new pages and new volumes. Emotions and ritual behavior patterns are built very deeply into us. They're part of our humanity. But they're not characteristically human.
Many other animals have feelings. What distinguishes our species is thought. The cerebral cortex is, in a way, a liberation. We need no longer be trapped in the genetically inherited behavior patterns of lizards and baboons: Territoriality and aggression and dominance hierarchies. We are, each of us largely responsible for what gets put into our brains for what, as adults, we wind up caring for and knowing about.
No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain we can change ourselves.
Think of the possibilities.