T.J. Newton  

Hi! This presentation is a little different from the others on NewsKing. We know so little about this topic, we're going to need some fantasy... starting with Thumper! Thumper is a Disney character - a talking rabbit - from the movie Bambi. He's going to play the role of the human enteric nervous system. Why explain the enteric nervous system with a talking Disney rabbit? Well, we'll get to that. This may come as a shock, but believe it or not, you have a "second brain" inside you. Your mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines (along with a few other parts) have a mind of their own. Together, the parts form Thumper. We don't know what Thumper thinks about, or if he's conscious like a real rabbit. But we know he processes information on his own. He's got enough nerve endings to be a cat's brain, or two-thirds of a cat's entire nervous system, so I figured a rabbit would work for his character. There are going to be other characters in this presentation, too. I think the best way to approach this is with characters. What if Thumper is listening?



We don't know much. The scientists who study the enteric nervous system are called neurogastroenterolists. Obviously, with all the research surrounding the brain in your head, they're not as popular as neurologists. Hey, that's the way it goes. The brain in your head does alot. The brain in your head might not even know Thumper. We don't even know that. We do know that there's a blood-brain barrier that prevents microorganisms (like bacteria) from entering your prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain in your head that "puts the 'you' in you," meaning we think that part of the brain in your head makes you conscious. We still don't know if Thumper is conscious; studies suggest that when enough nerve endings come together, a prefrontal cortex can have a substitute part in a different nervous system. So, you don't have "shit for brains," although Thumper is actually full of shit. You are what you eat. Or, at least, Thumper is affected by microorganisms. We don't know if, like, a big shit can affect your prefrontal cortex (the "you" in the brain in your head), but we know the microorganisms that can enter that area are rare.

We know Thumper can affect mood. We're working on the details. But, like, if you need to take a big shit, it seems like it could make your prefrontal cortex grumpy. Here's a pic of what Thumper looks like. I don't like to speculate, but scientific speculation is the next section. Dude, it looks like "shit for brains!" The small intestine, especially, looks like a brain! Don't tell Thumper he's full of shit! He's doing the best he can to keep your arrogant prefrontal cortex, with its elaborate "blood-brain barrier," alive!



"Scientific speculation" means we're making educated guesses based on the science we know, and just say stuff that could possibly be verified under the very strict rules of science. In other words, there's enough information available to make a very specific kind of guess. There's another section in this post called "Creative Ideas" where we have fun and make guesses based on our scientifically speculated guesses, meaning we're gonna have some fun with this! Just look at Thumper! We're gonna go there, but first we have to do this. "Zzz!"

The first and most obvious scientifically speculative idea is that Thumper has access to your senses. Does your stomach growl when you watch a TV commercial about food? Well, that might not be your prefrontal cortex. Thumper might be able to access your eyes and ears, as well as your other senses. Scientifically, we can't tell what's going on. We explain a stomach growl while watching TV with a signal sent to the stomach from the brain by way of the nervous system, but what that means needs further investigation. Is Thumper watching TV?

We think only mammals with a prefrontal cortex are conscious, and obviously a mouse is not as smart as a dog, but it's at least awake on some level. We have studies that show animals without a prefrontal cortex (birds, for example) may be conscious, and that's currently being investigated. The idea is that a "bird brain" has parts that make up for the lack of a prefrontal cortex. There are studies on cuddlefish and crabs that show what we're calling "rudimentary memory." We presume they're not conscious or "thinking," but have a gadget in their nervous systems that stores memories. And, like, bugs don't have brains at all. They're all nerves. So, the scientific speculation about Thumper would be that since he has as many nerves as a cat's brain, or as many nerves as two-thirds of an entire cat, maybe when that many nerves work together, Thumper wakes up and becomes conscious. It's fascinating because we already know he can "process information" independently of the brain. His world would be completely different than ours unless he's watching TV with you...

Got it? Well hold on, because the next section is all about caution. There's not enough information available, although this is very exciting!



There's not enough information available about all of this. The smartest people in the world used to think it was flat. Before you decide Thumper is your BFF (Best Friend Forever), let us study this a bit more. We can do that, like, today.

I did a post on NewsKing about a study that was broadcast on the television news show 60 Minutes. The scientist who conducted the study was a determinist, meaning he didn't think people were conscious. But if you delete out the parts with him running his mouth, the study itself was good. He shoved people into a CT scanner (we say CAT scanner, but maybe it was an MRI scanner) and showed them three pictures. While they were looking at the pictures, he recorded which parts of the brain were active, and sent the data to a computer. Then he showed the pictures to the human subjects again with the scanner running. Next he asked the computer to guess which of the three pictures the human subject was looking at based on the data. The computer nailed it. That means the same parts of the brain were active when looking at a specific picture. So it's not a big mess...

So... We need to shove Thumper and the brain into the scanner! That's it. Then we'll know more. We at least know that Thumper can "processes information." But don't put the cart ahead of the horse. Thumper might be a mess...

This is Cinderella's horse from the Disney movie Cinderella in case you don't know him. His name is "Major."



Let's run with the Cinderella theme! Cinderella wanted to look nice for a date, and encountered a Fairy Godmother who made Cinderella pretty. But there was a warning. All the prettiness would disappear at the stroke of midnight. So, that's like two different girls!

Why might Thumper be a mess? The enteric nervous system may be affected by various things. Food, microorganisms, and even exercise (you ever take a shit after doing situps?). So, you might get a different Thumper on different days. We know he's moody...

So, with that said, let's have some fun! We don't know enough yet, so it's time to get creative! That's the next section, and it's wild!

The character below is Captain Caveman. He's not a Disney character. He's Hanna-Barbera, the people who brought you The Flintstones...



I called this section "Creative Ideas," but there is a surprising amount of research that puts some of these ideas in the realm of mainstream science. Some of the ideas fit within the realm of speculative science, which is discussed in one of the sections above. We're going in with caution, though, as discussed in another section above. I'm sticking with the title "Creative Ideas" so that we have an abundance of caution. We're in an area in which people can't agree. We can't even agree that human's are conscious at all. That's neoNewtonian Philosophy, and that's Philosophy of Science, not mainstream science. But these are the ideas that, as a Philosopher of Science, I have reasonable confidence in, and have at least one academic source to go in here with me. So, here we go... Don't forget to have fun in here! At least one of these ideas is Sci-Fi (an imaginative idea based on speculative science). Let's go!


It isn't clear if Thumper can see, but research shows we can make your stomach growl if we show you a picture of your favorite foods. We don't know how that works. Does Thumper have direct access to your eyes, or does it start with a signal from the brain in your head to Thumper? (That signal can be chemical and/or neurological, and we're still trying to sort that out.) However it all happens, this brings in the other senses: sound, taste, smell, and touch. At least theoretically. Creatively, it means Thumper watches TV with you. A step further, and you're into Hollywood, artwork, and your entertainment role models. In other words, that painting of a bowl of fruit hanging on your wall is powerful shit! As is that poster of your favorite music artist hanging in your bedroom. The only sourced material I have on this is that it seems your stomach growls upon being presented a picture of food. But that is one powerful bowl of fruit!

Thumper has no idea what "social media" is. He just thinks he's looking at stuff. But the stresses of producing social media, especially visual media which we know Thumper can see, may lead to depression and anxiety. We'll talk more about that in the section "Things Can Go Wrong!"

I picked "Smokey The Bear," the bear who reminds you to prevent forest fires, to remind you to prevent forest fires. It isn't clear that Thumper knows when you're in danger, or feeding him something he shouldn't eat. Sometimes, you may have to look after Thumper. He's not the genius. You're the genius! And you needed Smokey to remind you. So, that's back to artists and artwork. Wow, I think that's called "society."



Society, especially in the realm of science, has made us very sad with regard to "consciousness." "Consciousness" means there's a "you." You're not just a pile of atoms left over from the Big Bang. You can make choices that affect our future, although Thumper may influence you and you may make the wrong choices. We'll get to that later, but despite what they tell you, you'll always be a "Toys 'R' Us" kid! That's neoNewtonian Philosophy again.

Among scientists studying consciousness, the "you" in you is located in a section of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. But studies on birds, which don't have a prefrontal cortex, suggest that "bird brains" may also be conscious. The idea is that when enough nerves work together, you'll get consciousness. Thumper is a big rabbit. So big, he's more like a cat. And a cat has a prefrontal cortex. Cats are mammals. All mammals have a prefrontal cortex, including rabbits.

So, is Thumper conscious? Some scientists think so. We know Thumper can "process information" independently of the brain, meaning he can do stuff you don't necessarily know about. But Thumper can also use your eyes, and possibly, use your prefrontal cortex. It's an area about which we cannot agree. But whether he is conscious or not, I can, with reasonable confidence, assure you as a Philosopher of Science, that you're conscious, and that there's a "you." Yo, you're awake! And Thumper might be awake, too...



Is it you or Thumper who is responsible for emotions like jealousy and vanity? We don't know, but the next section, called "Sex & Reproduction" may offer clues. If you accept that Thumper can use your eyes, maybe you're not jealous or vain. Maybe that's Thumper using your eyes. Or maybe emotions are a very complex "sharing" relationship between you and Thumper. We can certainly put it in terms of food. Have you ever been jealous about the amount of food on someone else's plate compared to the amount of food on your plate? Does the other person appear as though they can physically eat more, and make you want to exercise, or say "fuck exercise, I'm eating!"? We know scientifically that there appears to be a link to "jealousy." Jealousy might not be your fault. And we'll get to "legal guilt" later.

If you accept all that, we can say we don't know for sure what emotions Thumper may participate in. All of them? Specific ones? There's not enough information available. I picked jealousy and vanity, and have a source for jealousy. We're getting deeper into it. You have to accept that there's a Thumper as described above to make it this far. And you have to use caution as we move on, because the answers aren't there. We're going with NewsKing and a few scientific sources. It's gonna get wilder as we move along...



Does Thumper have anything to do with your sex life? Well, the diagram in the "What We Know" section above only shows the anus (your butthole) as part of the gastrointestinal system. But given the location of your reproductive organs, and given emotions like jealousy and vanity, it stands to reason that Thumper affects your sex life. Whether you're a guy or a girl, the jealousy and vanity described in the section directly above this one may be related to reproduction. I have one source linking Thumper to reproduction. Have you ever looked at another couple and gotten jealous? How about racist? Maybe it's Thumper wanting to reproduce what he likes that's making you racist. In your prefrontal cortex, you're not racist at all. But Thumper might like specific races, and they might not even be your race! Luckily, some people like other races, and we get genetic diversity that ensures the survival of the human race... Speaking of which, what if you're not gay? What if Thumper is?

Thumper isn't a genius. If he's thinking at all, it seems like it's for the next 5 minutes, because I don't think Thumper really thinks ahead about things like war. That's your job. But Thumper is right next to your penis or vagina, and likely is involved in sex and reproduction.

This is "Sexual Harassment Panda" from the TV show South Park. He gives lectures about not sexually harassing people (or animals... we have goat fuckers out there...). I thought he'd be a good pick before we get into "Legal Guilt." But next we have to talk about disease, illness, microorganisms, and more. Maybe something "crawled up your butt!" (It's an old saying for a grumpy person. "What crawled up your butt today, grumpy?")



IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn's disease, E. coli, food poisoning, worms (yes, worms!), indigestion, gas, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, the flu, anorexia, bulimia, urinary tract infections, and more... These are just a few of the things that can go wrong with Thumper. While your brain has a blood-brain barrier that keeps most of this stuff out (there are still a few things that can get in, like "Lyme disease," which you can get from a tick/specific insect bite), Thumper kinda has "shit for brains." Everything gets into Thumper. He usually handles it well, and stays the same Thumper you know and love (if there is a Thumper), but he can change on you a lot easier than the "you" in your prefrontal cortex (the brain in your head) can change. Look out! Thumper handles the shit you don't have to, and shit goes wrong!

Thumper may get depressed, and suffer from anxiety, too. There is at least one study that talks about the subject. We're not sure how it all works, but it might be Thumper, not you, behind your depression.

Things can go wrong with Thumper during pregnancy in females. It appears we don't have very much information about that subject. It also appears we know most about "Typhoid fever." Typhoid fever is not the only thing that can go wrong, but I have a source on that.

So, as a hypothetical, if you accept all that, what if you murder someone, and it's because there was E. coli in your romaine lettuce salad? Are you responsible for the murder? We'll get to that next...



In our society, guilt must be placed somewhere, and it involves a "free will." But if there's two of you, and one of you is dehydrated or has E. coli, the question of guilt is not like what they do in the legal system. If you really want to get to the bottom of the physical causes of something like a murder, you have to examine the accused in a hospital, not a police interrogation room. We know Thumper can, in certain ways, influence your mood, which leads to thoughts different than what you would ordinarily have.

We're bumping quantum physics, religion, consciousness, law, sociology, psychology, and biology, along with a host of other disciplines, against each other in a way that seems to not describe guilt in a way that is legally satisfactory. There's a "you," and we can blame "you," but we're not recognizing much else. We can barely recognize "crowd behavior," where you smash a window in a protest because everyone else did. Before Jesus's abs, what were you thinking? Scientific evidence suggests, although it's debatable, that the "you" in you is not guilty. It doesn't mean letting go of "self," but now there's a whole new rabbit in town. And it's 1000 years different from anything we understand...



This is probably the most creative of the ideas in "Creative Ideas." And it's got aliens! NASA discovered a rock in Antartica (the South Pole) that turned out to be a rock from Mars. They know that because of experiments conducted on Mars. We think a giant meteor (or other "space rock") struck Mars, knocking off this little rock we found in Antartica, sending it to Earth. In 1996, they found what appeared to be the fossil of a microorganism inside that rock. Scientists can't agree. It looked like a little worm. But maybe...

Maybe it was a little snake! If you scroll back up to "What We Know," doesn't the large intestine look like a snake? Maybe we all have a Martian snake inside of us that merged into us during our evolution. Maybe Thumper's a Martian living inside you! Of course, that's beyond even scientific speculation, but... Tell my dick no! Nah, I would never put it to you that way. Cool, though, huh!?



All other "Creative Ideas" aside, it appears, in my opinion as a Philosopher of Science, that Thumper is real, at least in the sense that there is "some kind of Thumper who needs further study." The idea seems legit, and I'm not alone on that opinion.

I've included an idea under the "Be Careful" section that could reveal more information, and scientists are studying this in a number of different ways. We're trying to figure it out. So far, as best we can tell, Thumper is real. Whether he's "awake" or "conscious" remains a matter of debate. But there are scientists out there who think the prefrontal cortex in your brain isn't conscious. I respectfully disagree with that opinion. How would you know you're not conscious if you can't know anything consciously?

We're a long way from understanding Thumper, but we've also come a long way! Look at the beautiful presentation you just read. Have confidence that the information you took from it is both careful and fun. And have fun! Enjoy this, and let Thumper enjoy it, too!


Related:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enteric_nervous_system
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogastroenterology
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038267
- http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/basics/gi_nervous.html
- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain...
- http://www.kenrinaldo.com/portfolio/enteric-consciousness
- https://www.quora.com/Is-the-enteric-nervous-system-aware-of-itself
- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain
- https://adeptpsychology.com/falling-in-love
- https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC546937
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4989662
- https://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/nasa1.html

Artwork:
Thank you to all the talented artists who made this presentation possible...
- Disney
- Hanna-Barbera/Warner Bros.
- The Ad Council
- The Washington Post
- Comedy Central
- Karen Jones
- Cody Weber
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