Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence electronic circuit. Microchip with glowing brain. 3D rendered illustration.
Artificial intelligence electronic circuit. Microchip with glowing brain. 3D rendered illustration.
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Science Uprising: Stop Ignoring Evidence for the Existence of the Human Mind!

Materialism enables irrational ideas about ourselves to compete with rational ones on an equal basis. It won’t work

In Mind: The Inescapable I, the second episode of Science Uprising, eminent philosopher Daniel Dennett informs us, “What you are, what I am is a hundred trillion little cellular robots.”

A student in a mask asks, “That may sound scientific. But is it?”

Good question, and not often asked.

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, a Bradley Center fellow, takes issue with the claim:

Eliminative materialism is an ideological viewpoint, a philosophical viewpoint, but it’s not a scientific viewpoint. It is the viewpoint that there is no such thing as the mind. It’s not that the mind is explainable by matter. It’s just that the mind doesn’t exist at all.

Eliminative materialism enables irrational ideas about ourselves to compete with rational ones on an equal basis.

We are given to understand, for example, by people with a claim to be serious scholars, that inanimate matter like a coffee mug shares in consciousness, that consciousness must be a material thing, or that it is an illusion Consciousness studies has been described in Chronicle of Higher Education as bizarre. That proves no deterrent.

But science seems to be going in a different direction. Both mind-based treatments for mental disorders and the commonplace placebo effect (we often get better when we feel better) show that our thoughts can change our brains and bodies.

Egnor offers a much more dramatic demonstration from an operation he performs, the corpus callosotomy, where a human brain is cut in half, to minimize otherwise uncontrollable epileptic seizures:

But they still seemed to be a unitary person, they still seemed to be fairly normal. And what that implies I that the human mind is not generated purely by the matter of the brain. Otherwise, cutting the brain in half would have profound effects. It might create two people. Certainly, it would create a rather profound effect on a person’s state of consciousness. And it doesn’t.

He also discusses the remarkable discoveries of twentieth-century Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891–1976) who found that consciousness remained somehow intact, despite deep brain surgery, and that free will could be detected in the brain. And much more.

The materialists are realists, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor explains, “Rather than abandoning materialism, they abandon the mind.”

In reality, if materialism were true, we would probably already have found the consciousness gene and the wobbly free will knob in the brain. Instead, we are left with the infamously Hard Problem of Consciousness and bizarre materialist attempts to make it Go Away.

In the film at least, the kids aren’t fooled.

Note: Here’s Episode 1 – Reality: Real vs. Material


See also: Seven minutes to goosebumps: Confronting materialism head-on
A new short film series takes on materialism in science, including that of AI’s pop prophets (Robert Marks)


Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she has published two books on the topic: Faith@Science and By Design or by Chance? She has written for publications such as The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, and Canadian Living. She is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist'€™s Case for the Existence of the Soul. She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Science Uprising: Stop Ignoring Evidence for the Existence of the Human Mind!