Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Michael Egnor

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Light rays through the black window. Toned photo

Can LSD Help Us Understand the Mind–Brain Relationship?

Is the mind generated by the brain or does the brain merely focus the mind on the current scene? An experiment sheds some light

In a fascinating article inThe Guardian titled “Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception,” science editor Ian Sample discusses recent research on the mechanism by which LSD alters the brain and the mind. He begins by quoting Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) who noted that LSD “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life.” Remarkably, recent work in neuroscience supports Huxley’s view. The research, conducted at Cornell University, confirms what has been called the Rebus model of psychedelics. Rebus is a rough acronym for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”; the model proposes that the brain is essentially a prediction engine for daily life. In this model, the brain processes information…

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double exposure of the Passion of the Christ

The Brain Prosperity Gospel: Can “Neurotheology” Be Real Science?

The study of the neuroscience of mental states, including religious belief, is a reasonable pursuit but neurotheology, as a science, faces huge obstacles

Neurotheology is the study of the neuroscience associated with spiritual experience. It is a growing field. In a recent essay, Andrew Newberg, a prominent researcher, discusses recent advances: The field of neurotheology continues to expand from its early origins several decades ago to the present day. In its simplest definition, neurotheology refers to the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between the brain and our religious and spiritual selves. As I always like to say, it is important to consider both sides of neurotheology very broadly. Thus, the “neuro” side includes brain imaging, psychology, neurology, medicine, and even anthropology. And the “theology” side includes theology itself, but also various aspects related to religious beliefs, attitudes, practices, and…

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boy standing and looking at broken golden gear wheels, digital art style, illustration painting

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned

Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does…

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IQ test Result, Very Superior Intelligence Quotient.

If IQ Is Inherited, Is the Intellect Simply Material?

A reader writes: I was reading your writings about mind and brain, and I was wondering about how IQ relates to all of this. Since IQ seems to have a large heritable component to it, and the only thing that can be inherited genetically is physical traits, does IQ and its heritability pose a threat to mind-body dualism? It seems to me that someone with an IQ of 75 would have a very different mental experience than someone with an IQ of 145, and that they would also make decisions very differently, which, to me at least, would pose a threat to free will as well, since wouldn’t a certain level of intelligence be required to make decisions freely in…

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Villa Melzi - Dante e Beatrice

One of the Greatest Poets Asks, Can We Be Good Without Free Will?

As a centuries old poem shows, materialism is a logical mistake and not really a coherent system of belief

Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri, exiled for life from his native Florence, took the opportunity to write a magnificent trilogy — the Divine Comedy — in which he tours Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Comedy is more than a poetic masterpiece. It is a profound philosophical and theological reflection on this life and on eternity. Remarkably, although Dante’s immediate guides through the unseen worlds are, famously, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) and later, a childhood sweetheart Beatrice (who died young), his philosophical guide is the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. The metaphysics, the ethics, and the theology of the Divine Comedy deeply reflect Thomas’s influence. That is remarkable, considering that Dante (1265–1321 AD), who was only a child…

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Chain hanging from the sky

Why the Universe Itself Can’t Be the Most Fundamental Thing

Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory

Jerry Coyne has posted in reply to my observation that God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary methods of science. That is to say, all proofs of God’s existence are scientific theories in the sense that they have the same logical structure as any other scientific theory that proposes explanations for the natural world. Scientific theories are inductive in that they depend upon evidence in the natural world to reach a conclusion. Thus demonstrations of God’s existence, for example Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, are scientific theories in the sense that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are scientific theories. Scientific theories can demonstrate the existence of things outside of nature…

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World mental health day concept: Silhouette of human standing to worship God in meadow autumn sunset background

Here’s Why an Argument for God’s Existence Is Scientific

The form of reasoning and the type of evidence accepted is the same as with Newton’s theories or Darwin’s

Atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is a fountain of nonsensical arguments against the existence of God. If a scholar wanted to write a review paper on the most ridiculous arguments against God’s existence so far in the 21st century, he would need look no further than Coyne’s blog. Coyne’s latest post denying God’s existence takes issue with an essay by Samuel Benson in the Deseret News in which Benson makes the case that invoking both a miracle and a scientific achievement in the development of the COVID vaccine is not necessarily contradictory. Benson points out that the natural world, properly understood, can only be explained using both science and theology. In support of his view, he quotes the president of…

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X-ray.

Why a “Budding” Neuroscientist Is Skeptical of Brain Scans

After reading her perceptive essay about the problems in fMRI imaging in neuroscience, I’m sad that a gifted student has doubts about a career in the field

Kelsey Ichikawa has just published a superb essay about the pitfalls of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain. Ms. Ichikawa (pictured), who describes herself as a ”budding” neuroscientist who graduated last year from Harvard, discusses the snares into which misinterpretation can lead us. fMRI brain scanning is a relatively new technology in which researchers and clinicians use magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain to detect brain activity almost as it happens. The technique is widely used, both for clinical care of patients (neurosurgeons use it to map sensitive parts of the brain prior to surgery) and for research purposes. A major thrust of neuroscience research in the last couple of decades has been the use of fMRI…

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Young blind man with white cane and guide dog sitting in park in city.

The Mystery of Blindsight Helps Us Understand the Mind Better

How can a blind person demonstrate awareness of an object in his visual field — and yet not be conscious of it?

Blindsight is the remarkable ability of some blind people to sense objects that they cannot actually see. It occurs when the blindness is caused by damage to the main part of the brain that processes visual information (the striate cortex). But the eyes themselves are intact. The eyes continue to see (sensation) but nothing is receiving the messages (perception). Or so we would think, except for this: One of the most contentious discussions in philosophy of mind and neuroscience is the nature of perception as opposed to sensation. How can we perceive objects in our environment? On a deeper level, what do we mean by “perception”? In what ways does perception differ from sensation, if at all? The neurobiology of…

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human brain on technology background represent artificial intelligence and cyber space concept

Why “the Mind Is Just a Computation” Is a Fatally Flawed Idea

Much modern neuroscience can be characterized as a collection of weak metaphors about the mind and brain. This is one of them

The computational theory of mind (CTM) is the theory that the mind is a computation (calculation) done by the brain. That is, the mind works by rule-based manipulation of symbols, which is what a computer does — computation. Thus our mental states are computational states. Several prominent philosophers have held this view, notably Hilary Putnam (1926–2016) and Jerry Fodor (1935–2017) , and more recently Matthias Scheutz, among several others. I believe that the computational model of the mind is fatally flawed. Here are some reasons: The most obvious reason is that all mental states have meaning — that is, they are intentional. Intentionality means that our thoughts are about something — there is always an object to which a thought…

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Afro-american boy hiding in ruined building, escaped from dysfunctional family

Woke Medicine Is Very Bad for Everyone’s Health

The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed

Critical Race Theory and claims about structural racism in American society are infiltrating medical care and education. There is a major effort in medical education today to indoctrinate students and resident physicians into Critical Theory. This is, in my view, a deeply misguided approach.The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed. The question we face is: how can we protect medical education and practice from this latest iteration of Marxism, and at the same time work to improve deficiencies in education and medical care that Critical Race Theorists correctly point out? It is undeniable that there are structural problems in medicine. Many of these problems impede good medical care, especially…

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Eye close up

What if only part — not all — of your brain were transplanted?

You might end up seeing double out of an eye a thousand miles away

Recently, we’ve been discussing the concept of total or partial human brain transplants. What about transplanting an eye and the parts of the visual cortex it needs from one person to another? Which of the two people would be seeing out of that eye? The answer is not simple. As noted earlier, researchers may never succeed in transplanting both an eye and the hemisphere brain parts that the eye needs to function from one human being to another. But let’s assume a science fiction scenario — a thought experiment — in which there is an exchange. Jack gets Mary’s right eye/hemisphere and Mary gets Jack’s right eye/hemisphere. Both parties, who live on different parts of the planet, survive. For simplicity,…

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Anatomy human body model. Part of human body model with organ system.

Are Human Brain Transplants Even Possible?

What would be the outcome if one person received transplants from the brains of others? If it’s not possible, there may be a good reason why not

Earlier this week, I discussed the work of Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who did extensive research on head transplants in animals. The operation sometimes worked, most notably in monkeys. But it has never been done in humans, mostly because head transplantation would mean cutting the spinal cord, which would cause complete and permanent paralysis. The most reasonable perspective on the soul is that it is the active principle of the body — that is, the soul is what the body does. Thus soul follows function. From this perspective, I infer that after a head transplant, I would see with my original eyes, hear with my original ears, etc. If I were able to move my…

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Electrocardiogram in hospital surgery operating emergency room showing patient heart rate with blur team of surgeons background

Are Head Transplants Soul Transplants?

Specifically, if your head were transplanted, would your soul go with it?

Wired offers a fascinating article about Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who was famous for his extensive research on head transplants. He transplanted heads of various animals, often unsuccessfully (many animals died) but with some success, particularly with monkeys. The medical, ethical, and sociological issues are interesting in themselves, but I’ll focus here on the metaphysical issues. Specifically, if your head is transplanted, does your soul go with it? First, it worth noting that head transplantation is difficult surgery but doable. We know how to sew blood vessels together, how to fuse spinal bones, how to attach tracheas and muscles and peripheral nerves. Transplantation of an entire head (or an entire body, depending on your perspective)…

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Blue glowing multiverse in space

We Don’t Live in a Multiverse Because the Concept Makes No Sense

Neurologist Steven Novella and philosopher Philip Goff, both atheists, agree that there are many universes besides the one we live in

Cosmic fine-tuning is the observation that many of the values of the variables in the fundamental laws of physics specifically permit the existence of sentient life (life like us) within a very narrow margin of error. The likelihood of this happening by chance seems vanishingly small. It seems as if Someone expected us. How can we explain this? The fact that God created the universe explains fine-tuning. But for atheists, it’s a real conundrum. As a result, at Neurologica blog, neurologist Steven Novella (pictured) and philosopher Philip Goff have been discussing the most popular atheist explanation for fine-tuning, the “multiverse.” That is, there are countless universes out there, each with its own parameters, and ours just happens to be one…

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Acceleration of Painted Dream

A Reader Asks: Is It True That There Is No Self?

The assertion that self is an illusion is not even wrong — it’s self-refuting, like saying “I don’t exist” or “Misery is green”

Sir, I am confused after reading the view of materialist philosophers regarding the sense of self. One of them, Thomas Meitzinger, a German philosopher and expert in conciousness, said that “There is no self” in his book. He said that self is an illusion produced by modules of brain. Is it so? Please help me understand this view. Thomas Meitzinger (pictured) is a prominent philosopher of mind who has a strong interest in artificial intelligence. I don’t know his work well, but what I do know of it, I find unintelligible. Perhaps it’s me, or perhaps he’s a sophist, or perhaps both. But this much is clear: My self cannot be an illusion, because having an illusion presupposes a self.…

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Closeup of ill blond senior woman sitting at home and taking oxygen from respirator while nurse with protective mask on sitting next to her and holding her hand during corona virus.

Explosive New Information About New York’s Mass COVID Deaths

In a video conference, perhaps accidentally, a health official blurted out the deadly policy and the reasoning behind it

In November, I wrote about the horrendous consequences of the official directive issued March 25, 2020 by senior New York State officials that required nursing homes to admit residents regardless of their COVID-19 status. In fact, the directive prohibited testing residents prior to admission: No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. [underline in original]. The officials responsible are Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured), Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin. Despite public outrage and strong media criticism, their order…

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Psychology or invent conception. Brain function model.

How Much of Neuroscience Is an Unwitting Hoax?

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein saw that much materialist neuroscience was neither true, nor false, just nonsense

In 1996, NYU physics professor Alan Sokal published an article in a journal of postmodern cultural studies. The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was a hoax. Sokal simply assembled more or less meaningless phrases about cultural theory and quantum physics in a grammatically correct but meaningless manuscript. He revealed the hoax a few weeks later in a magazine. The hoax ignited a storm of controversy and, in the view of many, revealed the essential sham at the core of postmodern philosophy. What Sokal (pictured) was doing, whether he knew it or not, was invoking philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s salient critique of philosophy and science, which is that much of our discourse is language games. By…

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Artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, deep learning modern computer technologies. Futuristic Cyber Technology Innovation. Brain representing artificial intelligence with printed circuit board (PC

Is the Mind Really Just “What the Brain Does”?

Many theories claim so. None of them work. Functionalism, the current survivor, is the best of the lot but deeply flawed

Over the past century there have been several paradigms or patterns of explanation by which philosophers and neuroscientists have tried to understand the mind. Behaviorism was the view that the input to and output from the nervous system was all that mattered. The ‘mind’ was deemed irrelevant to science. Behaviorism was eclipsed by reality—it was more or less demolished in the 1960’s by Noam Chomsky (1928–), who pointed out that language could not be understood in behaviorist terms. The study of the mind is indispensable to linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy. That this needed to be said is a scandal in itself. Identity theory — the view that mental states are identical to brain states — was the rage for several…

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Vice grip tool squeezing a plank with the word free will

A Reader Asks: Does Neuroscience Disprove Free Will?

Materialists sometimes misrepresent the evidence for free will, especially Benjamin Libet’s work

Here’s the question: I have a question regarding free will. Sam Harris in his interview with Dan Dennett said that “If we decide to do go to somewhere we experience it later but our brain decided it much earlier than our experience to this decision. If we scan the brain at that time we will tell you before you came to know” Now it raise a question because we decide through intellect. You said that free will is due to intellect so intellect is challenged here. It’s an excellent question. The answer in brief is that we most certainly do have free will. We can see this from three perspectives: scientific, philosophical, and logical. The scientific evidence The scientific evidence…