Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Michael Egnor

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Is Consciousness a “Controlled Brain Hallucination”? No.

Anil Seth explains away consciousness away using fashionable terms like that. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I know from clinical experience that he is wrong

Philosopher David Chalmers famously divided the problem of understanding how consciousness is related to the brain by distinguishing between the easy and hard problems of consciousness. The easy problem of consciousness is typically faced by working neuroscientists — i.e., what parts of the brain are metabolically active when we’re awake? What kinds of neurons are involved in memory? These problems are “easy” only in the sense that they are tractable. The neuroscience necessary to answer them is challenging but, with enough skill and perseverance, it can be done. The hard problem of consciousness is another matter entirely. It is this: How can first-person subjective experience arise from brain matter? How do we get an ‘I’ from an ‘it’? Compared with…

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Atheists Who Scold Us on Morality Acknowledge God’s Existence

For example, every time internet-famous atheist P. Z. Myers scolds humanity on morality and immorality, he demonstrates the point

P.Z. Myers detests challenges to his atheism based on the reality of Objective Moral Law: There is a common line of attack Christians use in debates with atheists, and I genuinely detest it. It’s to ask the question, “where do your morals come from?” I detest it because it is not a sincere question at all — they don’t care about your answer, they’re just trying to get you to say that you do not accept the authority of a deity, so that they can then declare that you are an evil person because you do not derive your morals from the same source they do, and therefore you are amoral. It is, of course, false to declare that someone…

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Philosopher: I’m Neither Me, Myself nor I… Yet I Give Interviews!

Theoretical philosopher Thomas Metzinger tells his interviewer “Nobody ever had or was a self. Selves are not part of reality.”

It’s remarkable that given the abysmal logical state of modern neuroscience, modern philosophy of mind seems to be in a heated contest to be even more absurd. Secular meditation teacher Michael W. Taft interviewed leading theoretical philosopher Thomas Metzinger. Here is one set of Taft’s and Metzinger’s questions and answers, and my observations: Michael W. Taft: You’ve written at great length about the experience of selfhood in human beings. So let’s start off by asking, What is the self? Thomas Metzinger: The first thing to understand, I believe, is that there is no thing like “the self.” Nobody ever had or was a self. Selves are not part of reality. Selves are not something that endures over time. The first…

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Yes, Spiders Dream — But That Doesn’t Make Them Leggy People

We don’t know where on the tree of life “mind,” in the most basic sense, begins. It might include bacteria but not viruses

A recent research article from Germany, which has made quite a splash in the popular press, raises some very interesting questions about animal minds. Animal behaviorist Daniela C. Rößler and co-authors studied 34 young spiders while they slept and found that their eye movements seemed analogous to the eye movements of human beings and other higher animals that occur during REM sleep and are associated with dreaming. They pointed out that this seems to suggest that arachnids may have mental states and dreams that are more akin to those of human beings then previously thought. The article, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is open access. The research is fascinating in its own right but I…

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Mathematics Can Prove the Existence of God

Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne finds that difficult to believe but it’s really a matter of logic

In a recent post, atheist biologist Jerry Coyne takes issue with a commenter who asserts that God exists in the same sort of way mathematics exists. Here’s the analogy the commenter offered, as quoted by Coyne: Think of numbers for example, or mathematical equations, these are metaphysical things, that have not been created, however were discovered. The number 7 was the number 7 before anything at all came into existence. This is also true concerning the nature of God. He is not some material being that has come into existence, he is like a number that has always existed, (and by the way nobody will deny this logic with the number, however when someone mentions God a problem occurs). Jerry…

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Must We Be Able To Reason To Be Thought Of As Human Persons?

A common argument as to why abortion is generally ethical is that the unborn child cannot reason

Perhaps the most common justification that abortion proponents give for supporting abortion is that the human embryo or fetus isn’t capable of rational thought — and rational thought is the defining characteristic of humanity. They’re wrong in a fundamental way. How they’re wrong is best understood if we look at the metaphysics of human development. Metaphysics is “The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.” (American Heritage Dictionary) The ancient philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who provided an important foundation for science, pointed out that humans are rational animals. That is, we have at least the possibility of rational thought, although at some stages of life…

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Yes! There Is Evidence For the Intelligent Design of the Brain

If our brains were not intelligently designed, we would have no reason to believe anything our senses tell us

This is a big topic, of course. The brain, like all of biology, is obviously intelligently designed. From the elegant coordination of neural activity between neurons and brain regions to the remarkable law-like behavior of individual molecules and atoms that comprise neurons and neurotransmitters, the brain carries the unmistakable fingerprint of a Designer. But there is another common-sense way to infer design of the brain that is simple and I think quite convincing — it is based on our belief that our perceptions and concepts accord with truth. To see how this points to intelligent design of the brain, consider a very compelling argument for God’s existence proposed by philosopher Richard Taylor (1919–2003) in his book Metaphysics. Thomist philosopher Edward…

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Faith in God Is the Only Coherent Basis for Reason

Access to truth is always a matter of faith — the validity of reason cannot be validated by reason itself

Atheists commonly assert that there is a profound dichotomy between faith and reason. This is exemplified by atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne ’s book Faith vs. Fact. He implies that we can have faith in the truth of something or we can have factual knowledge of the truth but we cannot have both. Faith and fact are, in his view, mutually exclusive. But that is not true. Faith in God provides an indispensable foundation for the power of human reason. In the perspective proposed by medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), we must accept radical skepticism about the veracity of our perceptions and our concepts. One may ask: how do we know that what we perceive or what we…

Choosing the High Road or Low Road

My Challenge to Two Atheists Who Deny Free Will

There is too much of this nonsense in the science blogosphere. If Pigliucci or Coyne would like to debate free will, they can consider this a challenge from me

Of all of the materialist cults, free will denial may be the most bizarre. Nothing could be more obvious in everyday life that in a very real sense we generally have the option to choose our acts. We choose mundane things like what to have for breakfast and what clothing to wear and we make moral choices every day. The denial that we have the freedom to choose is essentially the assertion that we are robots, enslaved to our physics and chemistry and incapable of freedom. Obviously this view of humanity is deeply insulting – it’s just a slur – but is also rank nonsense. In fact, it’s self refuting and obviously so. At his blog, Why Evolution is True,…

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Tiger Battle

“Woke” Comes Back to Bite the Darwinists — and They Deserve It

Intelligent design people stood up not only for our colleagues and those who think as we do but we also stood up for freedom for people
Darwinist Jerry Coyne has been at the forefront of efforts over the past couple of decades to censor advocates of intelligent design and anyone who questions the Darwinian paradigm. Read More ›
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Political Website’s Christmas Gift to Readers: Promoting Abortion

FiveThirtyEight asked readers to share their abortion stories and got something it hadn’t bargained on: Many were glad it didn’t happen
If you want to understand the mindset of the abortion lobby, note that this plea for accounts of killing of children in the womb appeared on Twitter on Christmas Day. Read More ›
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Does Superdeterminism Resolve Dilemmas Around Free Will?

If we lack free will, we have no justification whatsoever to even believe that we lack free will

The conventional view of nature held by materialists, who deny free will, is that all acts of nature, including our human acts and beliefs, are wholly determined by the laws of nature, understood as the laws of physics. We cannot be free, they assert, because all aspects of human nature are matter, and the behavior of matter is wholly determined by physical laws. There is no “room” for free will. It’s noteworthy that physicists who have studied determinism in nature (specifically, in quantum mechanics) have for the most part rejected this deterministic view of free will and implicitly (if not explicitly) endorsed the reality of free will. There are two reasons for this. First, experiments that have followed from the…

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…

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Theists vs. Atheists: Which Group Has the Burden of Proof?

Because Dillahunty refuses to debate me again, I’ll address his claim that atheists have no burden of proof in the debate over God’s existence in this post

A common refrain from those atheists who are willing to debate theists is that theists, not atheists, have the burden of proof in the debate over God’s existence. Internet atheist Matt Dillahunty made this claim in our recent debate. Regrettably, it looks doubtful that Dillahunty and I will debate again. He didn’t fare well—he had no real understanding of any of the ten classical proofs of God’s existence— and in the wake of his confused and rambling attempts at exculpation he refuses to debate me again. His reluctance is understandable—he was clearly shaken by the revelation that his rejection of the proofs of God’s existence isn’t based on any actual understanding on his part of the arguments. Like all other…

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Atheist Claims About Logical Fallacies Often Just Mean: Shut Up!

In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity” because we examine his claims and find them incredible

What does atheist Matt Dillahunty mean when he accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity”? Atheist rhetoric is a mish mash of ignorance, denial and pretense, often mingled with explicit or implicit efforts at censorship. Atheists travel in herds—contrary to their own inflated sense of their ‘freethought’ and ‘skepticism’, they are the most gullible idealogues. In debate with atheists, specific themes show up again and again, and atheist accusation of ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ is among the most common, usually aimed at Christians who challenge atheist arguments. Matt Dillahunty invoked ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ in our recent debate. It’s worthwhile examining what this ‘fallacy’ is and why atheists…

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The Divine Hiddenness Argument Against God’s Existence = Nonsense

God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge

In my recent debate with Matt Dillahunty about the existence of God, Dillahunty invoked his favorite argument against God’s existence — the Divine Hiddenness argument. We didn’t have a chance to go into that argument in detail in the debate, and Dillahunty is unwilling to have any more debates with me (even if he’s paid, apparently). So this is a good forum to look at that argument in more detail. What is the argument for atheism from God’s Hiddenness? This is a standard form of the argument from Divine Hiddenness against God’s existence: Necessarily, if God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be. Necessarily, if God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be,…

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Weak Anthropic Principle? Not an Explanation but a Tautology!

Compared to the Strong Anthropic Principle — the universe is objectively fine-tuned for life — the Weak Anthropic Principle aims to avoid evidence and subvert discussion

My friend and colleague Dr. Bob Marks has a wonderful podcast with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz, regarding a recent paper they published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics on fine tuning for life in the universe. It’s very clear from astrophysics that many physical variables in the early universe needed to take very specific values — with very little margin for error — to permit the emergence of life. This is quite remarkable, and the authors have written a very nice paper exploring the probabilities involved in this apparent fine-tuning in considerable detail. It’ fascinating and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. In the most recent segment, “Our universe survived a firing…

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Science Can and Does Point to God’s Existence

Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist — it routinely points to causes outside of nature.

In my recent debate at Theology Unleashed, with Matt Dillahunty, Dillahunty made the claim that science necessarily follows methodological naturalism, allowing only for causes within nature. This is a common assertion by atheists. It’s wrong, and here’s why: First we need to start with the definition of science. Despite the huge literature on this topic and the great confusion about the answer, I think the answer is relatively simple. Classical philosophers defined science (scientia) as the systematic study of effects according to their causes. To clarify, consider the three assertions in this definition: 1) science is systematic — that is, it is not merely the occasional musing or haphazard insight but an organized planned course of action to deepen understanding.…

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Leading Astronomer Gets It All Wrong About Free Will and Destiny

Logic and reason aren’t laws of physics and therefore they transcend physical properties

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, has recently written an essay in which he considers whether human beings have free will and how long the human race will survive. Loeb is a prolific and often quite thoughtful scientist who has a refreshing propensity to think outside the mainstream. However, his recent essay in Scientific American, titled “How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?”, is well off the mark. I think he profoundly misunderstands human nature and human destiny. Loeb opines on the question of human free will: The Standard Model of physics presumes that we are all made of elementary particles with no additional constituents. As such composite systems, we do not possess freedom at a fundamental level, because all particles and…