Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive November 2021

Girls eye with paint and earth

Why Panpsychism Is Starting To Push Out Naturalism

A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work

Naturalism, often called “materialism,” posits that nature is all there is. Panpsychism doesn’t dispute that. But the panpsychist also thinks that consciousness is real — present in all nature (or all living nature) but especially developed in humans. Last Monday, writing about a classical atheist naturalist who was attacking panpsychism, I reflected on the difficulties the trend to panpsychism presents him. The naturalist is hostile to the panpsychist because he assumes that human consciousness will, in due course, be explained away. It is either an illusion, or an aid to survival that evolved among early humans. Or perhaps it is a spandrel (in evolution theory, a useless accompaniment of useful traits). In short, what we thought was our means of…

quantum-wave-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Quantum Wave

Can Quantum Physics, Neuroscience Merge as Quantum Consciousness?

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser looks at the pros and cons of current theories

Physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser offers some thoughts as to the light that quantum mechanics — as opposed to classical physics — can shed on consciousness. The problem, he thinks, is that both quantum mechanics and consciousness are mysteries. Adding them two mysteries together doesn’t produce simple answers: The truth is that despite the tremendous success of quantum physics when it comes to its applications — the digital and nuclear technologies that define much of modern life — its interpretation remains uncertain, a target of heated debate among physicists. We know how to use quantum physics, but we do not know what it is telling us about the nature of reality. Marcelo Gleiser, “Can quantum mechanics explain consciousness?” at Big…

businessman-hand-change-wooden-cube-block-with-trust-and-truth-business-word-on-table-background-trustworthy-truth-beliefs-and-agreement-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Businessman hand change wooden cube block with TRUST and TRUTH business word on table background. Trustworthy, Truth, beliefs and agreement concept

What Makes Arguments for God Convincing — or Not

Is truth enough? A look at the unfulfilled promise of Christian apologetics

Mathematician and philosopher William Dembski offered an analysis of Christian apologetics (defense of Christian beliefs), “Making Apologetics an Effective Instrument for Cultural Engagement” at the Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting “Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World” (November 19, 2021). His discussion raises broad issues around how a culture assesses and understands truth. Republished with permission in four parts. The first part is “1 The Unfulfilled Promise of Christian Apologetics” and “2 Truth Is Never Enough.” 1 The Unfulfilled Promise of Christian Apologetics I’ve been writing professionally in the field of Christian apologetics now for over 30 years. In fact, looking at my CV, I see that one of my very first publications in apologetics (an article titled “Inconvenient Facts: Miracles and…

a-free-living-dung-beetle-sits-in-the-forest-stockpack-adobe-stock
A free-living dung beetle sits in the forest

When Your Oppressors Are Giant Beetles — Sci-fi Saturday

“Résistance” (2016, animated) by Alex Chauvet et al. (uploaded at DUST November 19, 2021, 6:36 min) Dominated by an Insect’s totalitarian regime, the staff of a restaurant organizes a plot to knock down the established order. Review: Picture a very upper crust French restaurant staffed by humans, whose patrons are giant beetles with temperaments to match. The beetles are very well executed. The sight of the beetles guzzling mini glasses of champagne is not one to miss, so it’s not surprising the film clocked over 150k viewers in fewer than ten days. But yes, the humans are unhappy with all the grossness. They are plotting in the kitchen. And it doesn’t help that one of the drunken beetles starts pawing…

another-world-far-away-stockpack-adobe-stock
Another World Far Away

Exoplanets: The Same Laws of Physics Means Similar Life Forms

Even on Earth, life forms of widely differing ancestry, arrive at the same solutions to physics problems, leading scientists note

Famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was sure that, if the deck were reshuffled, humans would never evolve — even on this planet — again. As Paul Parsons puts it at BBC’s Science Focus Magazine, His reasoning was that evolution is driven by random sets of genetic mutations, modulated by random environmental effects, such as mass extinctions, and that it would be extremely rare for the exact same set of effects to crop up twice. Paul Parsons, “Could humans be the dominant species in the Universe, and we just don’t know it yet?” at Science Focus (November 19, 2021) But as very large telescopes, capable of peering into exoplanets, are under development, current analysts are rethinking that approach. There are…

military-robot-and-skulls-of-people-dramatic-apocalypse-super-realistic-concept-rise-of-the-machines-dark-future-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock
military robot and skulls of people. Dramatic apocalypse super realistic concept. Rise of the Machines. Dark future. 3d rendering.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Just Did Not Load Properly

Although the second part of the Matrix trilogy offers interesting ideas and exciting action, the confusing plot obscures the concepts it should explore

What a mess of a story is The Matrix Reloaded (2003) — the second part of the Matrix (1999) trilogy, in which the world we know turns out to be a simulation created by AI intelligences. We met some of the characters in the first part, The Matrix (1999), reviewed here. But then what happened? First, we’re introduced to the new technician, Link, but no one explains where his predecessor Tank went. Then Zion (“the last human city, the only place we have left”) is introduced and there we find ourselves at the infamous Party Scene: To look at this techno-hedonistic rave, one might think we’ve entered volcano-challenged Pompeii of long ago. But this party is more reminiscent of the…

Businessman and his conscience

A Neuropsychologist Takes a Crack at Defining Consciousness

Frustrated by reprimands for discussing Big Questions in neuroscience, Mark Solms decided to train as a psychoanalyst as well

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. Then Solms pointed to the reality that discussing the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. Egnor and Solms agreed that…

young-african-male-programmer-writing-program-code-sitting-at-the-workplace-with-three-monitors-in-the-office-image-focused-on-the-screen-stockpack-adobe-stock
Young african male programmer writing program code sitting at the workplace with three monitors in the office. Image focused on the screen

Have a Software Design Idea? Kaggle Could Help It Happen for Free

Okay, not exactly. You have to do the work. But maybe you don’t have to invent the software

In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas about what’s happening — and isn’t happening — in artificial intelligence today. The big story turned out to be all the free software you can use to advance your own projects. This time out, Dr. Bui focuses on what open source (free) Kaggle software can do for you, including competitons. Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 12:58 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Justin Bui: Kaggle is owned by Google; I…

chinese-flag-and-big-brother-data-surveillance-stockpack-adobe-stock
Chinese flag and big brother data surveillance

On What Terms Is Co-Operation Between the US and China Possible?

China analyst Miles Maochun Yu thinks that China’s new goal is to become the new global power first, then implement its ideology

A panel at COSM 2021 aired a disagreement between philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich. Gingrich argued that China is the greatest threat to global freedom while Gilder felt that claims about forced labor, for example, are overstated and that we must co-operate with China for technological advances. In the background is China’s 24/7 surveillance of the entire population, the door-to-door identification of and crackdown on religious believers, as well as on civil rights activists. The situation in China has changed a great deal over the past half decade which marked the Uyghur internment camps and the premature takeover of Hong Kong. As Michael Schuman puts it: China today is in the grip of the most…

two-female-programmers-working-on-new-projectthey-working-late-at-night-at-the-office-stockpack-adobe-stock
Two female programmers working on new project.They working late at night at the office.

If Not Hal or Skynet, What’s Really Happening in AI Today?

Justin Bui talks with Robert J. Marks about the remarkable AI software resources that are free to download and use

In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a and computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas on what is — and isn’t — really happening in artificial intelligence today. Some of the more far-fetched claims remind Dr. Marks of the homunculus, the “little man” of alchemy. So what are the AI engineers really doing and how do they do it? Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 00:44 sec. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Isaac Newton was the genius who founded classical physics. He…

brain-mind-way-soul-and-hope-concept-art-illustration-surreal-mystery-artwork-imagination-painting-conceptual-idea-of-success-stockpack-adobe-stock
Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

Materialist Neuroscientists Don’t Usually See Real Patients

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and neuropsychologist Mark Solms find common ground: The mind can be “merely what the brain does” in an academic paper. But not in life

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. But Solms pointed to the reality that asserting the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. In this portion, Egnor and…

black-female-student-in-front-of-chalkboard-stockpack-adobe-stock
Black female student in front of chalkboard

If Reality Is Fundamentally Mathematical, Why the War on Math?

Just as physicists are recognizing the mathematical nature of reality more clearly, the basic idea of getting math right is under fire in our schools

Sam Baron, a philosophy prof at Australian Catholic University, whose specialty is the philosophy of mathematics, argues in a new paper that mathematics is not a human invention. It gives structure to the world we live in. We simply observe it. So do many life forms, it seems. He offers an example: There are two subspecies of North American periodical cicadas that live most of their lives in the ground. Then, every 13 or 17 years (depending on the subspecies), the cicadas emerge in great swarms for a period of around two weeks. Why is it 13 and 17 years? Why not 12 and 14? Or 16 and 18? One explanation appeals to the fact that 13 and 17 are…

octopus-stockpack-adobe-stock
Octopus

British Government Moves To Protect Octopuses From Cruelty

The move to protect cephalopods and crabs/lobsters follows from research showing their intelligence and awareness of pain

Following a report from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the British government has decided to extend animal protection laws to include “cephalopods (including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish).” No, this is not just another nut moment along the lines of “Salad is plant murder!” There’s a background: Researchers have discovered in recent decades that some invertebrates, especially those with complex central nervous systems, are much more intelligent and capable of experiencing pain (sentient) than we used to think. As George Dvorsky explains at Gizmodo, the British government introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in May. The bill defined sentient animals as animals with backbones (vertebrates). However, scientists have known for some…

crowd-of-people-walking-street-wearing-masks-stockpack-adobe-stock
Crowd of people walking street wearing masks

Critical Lessons From the COVID Crisis — From a Leading Historian

Niall Ferguson sees the economic impact of the COVID shutdown as comparable to fighting World War II — or World War III

Earlier this month, historian Niall Ferguson spoke to COSM 2021 about the real lessons from the strange year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. A reader might be forgiven for wondering whether, in the cacophony of conflicting claims, opinions, and prophecies of doom, there are any useful lessons to be learned (other than: Turn off the TV). Ferguson thinks there are indeed lessons — if we compare the recent pandemic and how it was handled with pandemics of the past. In his recent book, Doom: The politics of catastrophe (2021), he argues that “All disasters are in some sense man-made” and that — despite advances in science — we are getting worse, not better, at handling them: Yet in…

confident-businessman-crossing-arms-on-front-stockpack-adobe-stock
Confident Businessman Crossing Arms on Front

Fake It ’til You Make It – The Power Pose Parable Part II

Where does p-hacking and the replication crisis leave the state of scientific studies?

Last time, we explored the findings of a 2010 psychological study, which concluded that assuming a “power pose” for two minutes increases testosterone (confidence) and decreases cortisol (stress). But it turned out that p-hacking affected the results of the initial study, and that subsequent studies debunked the “power pose” findings. Dana Carney, the lead author of the original paper, acknowledged the faults of the original study and updated her views “to reflect the evidence.” Today, we explore the implications: Carney’s willingness to acknowledge the p-hacks and to support efforts to redo the power-pose tests is convincing evidence that the p-hacks were well-intentioned. This was how a lot of research was done at the time. Joseph Simmons, Leif Nelson, and Uri…

bright-light-developer-programming-and-coding-technology-website-design-safety-of-tahe-social-world-cyberspace-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Bright light Developer programming and coding technology. Website design Safety of tahe social world Cyberspace concept.

Jonathan Bartlett: An Interview With the Author

"Learn to Program with Assembly" teaches programmers the language needed for a better understanding of their computer

“Learning assembly language is about learning how the processor itself thinks about your code. It is about gaining the mind of the machine.” Jonathan Bartlett, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, p. 1 Jonathan Bartlett is a man of many talents: an engineer, a software developer, a mathematician, a researcher and writer. He has been a faithful contributor here at Mind Matters News for many years, on topics ranging from programming and coding to math to education to technology. His books have become required reading at Princeton and DeVry Universities. Now, he has written a new book, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, and he sat down with Mind Matters to talk…

open-eye-in-space-stockpack-adobe-stock
open eye in space

A Darwinian Biologist Resists Learning To Live With Panpsychism

Jerry Coyne makes two things quite clear: He scorns panpsychism and he doesn’t understand why some scientists accept it

Jerry Coyne, a traditional Darwinian evolutionary biologist and author of Why Evolution Is True, is having a hard time understanding why anyone would even consider taking panpsychism seriously. His bafflement over the growing acceptance of the idea that every living thing (or everything) is conscious to some extent may shed light on some new features of the changing science landscape. His jumping off point is a recent three-way debate/discussion, sponsored by MindChat, between panpsychist philosopher Philip Goff, naturalist theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, and physicalist philosopher Keith Frankish, who views the mind as an illusion created by the brain — or, as Coyne puts it, “a trick of the biological mind.” Coyne, as a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is),…

he-is-big-boss-and-has-power-stockpack-adobe-stock
He is big boss and has power

Fake It ‘til You Make It — The Power Pose Parable

Why a study "proving" a unique way to boost confidence and reduce stress turned out to be wrong

A 2010 paper published in a top-tier psychology journal advised that “a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful.” The researchers had 42 people assume two positions for one minute each — either high-power poses (sitting in a chair with their feet on a desk and standing with their hands spread on a desk) or low-power poses (sitting in a chair with hands clasped between their legs and standing with their arms and legs crossed). Saliva samples were used to measure the dominance hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. Risk-taking was gauged by a willingness to take a bet with a 50 percent chance of winning $2 and a 50 percent chance of losing…

choosing-the-high-road-or-low-road-stockpack-adobe-stock
Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Does Science Disprove Free Will? A Physicist Says No

Marcelo Gleiser notes that the mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws

One of the most disturbing implications of materialism in modern science is the inference that science disproves the existence of free will. Of course, this is not actually the case, but even the mistaken denial of free will has profound and very disturbing implications for our social structure, our criminal justice system, and our way of government. People who are assumed to lack free will are ultimately little more than cattle to be herded and, as philosopher Hannah Arendt has observed, the denial of free will — and the denial of individual responsibility that follows on it — is a cornerstone of totalitarianism. At Big Think, physicist and philosopher Marcelo Gleiser points to the fallacy that physics and neuroscience disprove…

supermassive-extraterrestrial-life-form-in-outer-space-dark-red-planet-in-twisted-galaxy-stockpack-adobe-stock
Supermassive extraterrestrial life form in outer space, dark red planet in twisted galaxy

Astronomer: Hunt for ET Can Unify Science and Religion

Avi Loeb told The Hill that the Galileo Project, which looks for physical evidence of extraterrestrials, could answer religious questions as well as science ones

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, spoke at a recent Ignatius Forum on his differences with “the scientific mainstream” about the evidence for extraterrestrial life. Perhaps in part because the venue was the Washington National Cathedral, Loeb felt motivated to reflect on the religious as well as the science implications of a search for extraterrestrial life. As a member of Harvard University’s Galileo Project which seeks to “bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs) from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends into the mainstream of transparent, validated and systematic scientific research,” he shared his thoughts with The Hill, which covers the U.S. Congress: In finding advanced extraterrestrial intelligence, religion might simply reflect advanced science with a twist.…