Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Our TARDIS Brain

I've just been listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 (1:30 pm) "Music from Beyond the Veil" about people who claim to be inspired by dead composers and singers, or to "channel their spirits". Rosemary Brown was one famous case from the 1960s who supposedly received new works from Liszt. Another was a singer who sang in the style of Caruso or Mario Lanza. The commentary given by Professor Paul Robertson seemed to me to be far too lacking in scepticism, and open to the spirit world being real.

There is no need whatsoever for such fanciful speculation. The way I like to put it is that the human brain is rather like Dr Who's TARDIS, it is much larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Or perhaps a better analogy is with a multiplex cinema. Within that small space there is room for images to be projected that envisage whole new worlds. Mathematicians indeed can imagine an infinite realm of numbers or spaces of infinite dimensions, without their brains exploding to encompass the distances, or imploding under the weight of the ideas.

Both the supposed mediums featured were I'm sure sincere in their wish to attribute their creations to these past masters, and perhaps too modest to think that they could actually be doing it from withn the abilities of their own minds. Anthony Payne who was interviewed about his completion of Elgar's Third Symphony was more realistic, although the Professor tried to push him to some sort of spiritual view. John Tavener's view that his ideas come from somewhere beyond is only to be expected in view of the explicit religious nature of much of his work.


  1. I've added in some links, and in so doing have found that Paul Robertson is Professor at Green Templeton College Oxford. Templeton College was founded/funded by Sir John Templeton, well known for promoting work attempting to connect science and religion. So alas, despite his pedigree as a musician, the Professor is tainted by the Templeton touch that turns everything to "woo".

  2. An excellent and well-written analysis of the relation between science and religion can be found at:

  3. Thanks for the link. One of the commenters (Jason Mierek) writes: "Religion, at its best, is about inculcating experiences of beauty, hope, love, awe, forgiveness, and kindness in human beings." I thought that was Humanism!