Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Michael Egnor

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Can Materialism Explain Abstract Thought? Part II

Now Dr. Ali argues with Dr. Ali

I know of no report in medical history of an abstract thought evoked by a seizure or by brain stimulation. Which is odd, if the brain causes abstract thought.

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What Is Abstract Thought? A Reply to Dr. Ali

Abstract thoughts cannot arise from material things because a cause cannot give what it does not have

Dr. Ali’s deeper fallacy—deeper than his misunderstanding of the research—is his belief that mere complexity of material processes is sufficient to explain immaterial processes.

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human brain on a running machine

Up! Up! Up! Keep Those Hippocampi Up!

The lighter side of neurobabble about our brains and ourselves

Neurobabble is a full-employment campaign for neuroscientists. Recast obvious social or psychological facts as brain events and you’ll never be out of work.

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Three reasons why humans won’t be cloned

I am prepared to subject my belief that humans cannot be cloned like Dolly the sheep to the test

Both materialist and immaterialist theories of the mind should be subject to empirical testing—neither should be exempt.

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Is an Immaterial Mind a Barrier to Human Cloning?

Human cloning has thus far been a scientific dead end

The ability to clone a rational man is a straightforward prediction of the materialist view of man, and the inability to clone a rational man is a straightforward prediction of the immaterialist view.

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Tales of the Mind: A Neurologist Encounters the House of Mirrors

Materialism is an intellectual trap, out of which neuroscience needs to climb

Yale University neurologist Steven Novella posted recently on the science of growing brain tissue in the lab. It’s interesting stuff, but then we come to the jumbled metaphysical musings that conclude his post: There is a layer of weirdness to the very idea of brain tissue in a vat, because I think we are naturally uncomfortable with the very notion that our consciousness is the result of a clump of tissue shuttling ions around. It breaks the illusion that our brains evolved to have, a very compelling and persistent illusion – namely that the reality we perceive is real, rather than a constructed representation. That internal representation has a strong relationship to physical reality, but the two are not the Read More ›

Langzeit EEG

Do “forced thinking” seizures show that abstract thought is a material thing?

Epilepsy suppresses abstract thought, it does not evoke it
It’s worth noting that Wilder Penfield, (with Herbert Jasper, his neurologist colleague), was one of the first doctors to characterize forced thinking seizures and he asserted that there are no intellectual seizures. He understood that forced thinking seizures are not seizures of the intellect. Read More ›
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Do Epileptic Seizures Cause Abstract Thoughts?

A psychiatrist argues that “intellectual seizures” can occur

Seizures never evoke abstract thought. That is, if a seizure causes you to think about a triangle, it always causes you to imagine a particular triangle, not to define triangles abstractly.

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Head erased with pencil

Atheist Psychiatrist Misunderstands Evidence for an Immaterial Mind

Patients with massive brain damage were shown to have a mental life

Here is one way of seeing it: If someone took a sledgehammer to your computer and pulverized it, yet it still worked fairly well, you would conclude that there was something rather strange about the computer that you had not previously considered.

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New Evidence That Some Comatose People Really Do Understand

Researchers found mental activity in response to verbal commands even in some “completely unresponsive” patients

There is growing evidence that many comatose patients are quite aware of what is going on around them. For example, nurses are often very careful not to say upsetting things that the patient can hear because blood pressure often rises dramatically, even in deeply “unaware” comatose patients.

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images from a computerized tomography of the brain.
images from a computerized tomography of the brain.

Can Buzzwords About “Neural Networks” Save Materialist Neuroscience?

No. Experiments that support an immaterial consciousness often involve split or massively damaged neural networks

The attribution of abstract thought to the material brain is philosophical and logical nonsense and has been repeatedly discredited by the best neuroscience over the past century.

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Science Points To An Immaterial Mind

If one did not start with a materialist bias, materialism would not be invoked as an explanation for a whole range of experiments in neuroscience

There may indeed be material explanations (at least from the perspective of neuroscience) but the simplest and most convincing explanation for the results of many experiments is that abstract thought is an immaterial power, not a material power, of the mind.

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Betraying Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Espousing Abortion

Bonhoeffer opposed abortion but the president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute argues for it
I treat very premature babies—they can feel excruciating pain, and colleagues who do fetal surgery always ensure that the fetus, as well as the mother, has sufficient anesthesia during the operation. Read More ›
two young baboons

Can Animals “Reason”? My Challenge to Jeffrey Shallit

He believes that animals can engage in abstract thinking. What abstractions do they reason about?

Dr. Jeffrey Shallit is an atheist mathematician who holds to the odd belief that animals, like humans, are capable of reason. It would seem that a highly intelligent man who makes his living by doing mathematics would understand that animals don’t, and can’t, do mathematics. But Dr. Shallit remains confused on this point, as he makes clear in his response to my recent post on that inability of animals to think abstractly or to reason (“An atheist argues against reason”). I observed that reason is defined traditionally in a very straightforward manner as the capacity for abstract thought. Shallit comments, Whenever Egnor talks about something being “accepted” or “simple and straightforward”, you can be pretty sure that the opposite is Read More ›

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University Fires Philosophy Prof, Hires Chimpanzee to Teach, Research

A light-hearted look at what would happen if we really thought that unreason is better than reason

Dissociated Press – According to sources from the Funny Papers News Collective, officials at the Université Paris Diderot announced today that philosophy professor Justin Smith has been dismissed from his teaching and research duties at the university, following publication of his new book, Irrationality. In the widely acclaimed book, Smith argues forcefully that reason is highly overrated, and generally of less survival value than brute animal instinct. Citing 16th-century diplomat Girolamo Rorario in his treatise “That Brute Animals Make Better use of Reason than Men”, Smith argues: [H]uman deliberation – the period of hesitancy when we survey our various options and eventually select what appears to be the best of them – far from being an advantage over other beings, Read More ›

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Be Reasonable written in neon on a brick wall

An Atheist Argues Against Reason

And thinks it is the reasonable thing to do

Justin Smith is leading the way to the abandonment of rationality. There’s not a shred of reason in his essay.

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Can Physics Prove There Is No Free Will?

No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will

It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony that she insists that people “change their minds” by accepting her assertion that they… can’t change their minds. 

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Legos and toys for assembly

Computers Are No Smarter Than Tinkertoys

Philosopher: You may as well believe that Penn and Teller really do magic

Philosopher Ed Feser wrote a great post recently on why it is irrational to believe that artificial intelligence is really intelligent. He begins with Arthur C. Clarke’s famous observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Clarke’s assertion, he points out, can be taken two ways: people can be fooled into thinking that advanced technology is magic and, as a metaphysical assertion, that advanced technology really is magic. He defends the first assertion and, of course, denies the second: There are, however, many people who believe a claim that is analogous to, and as silly as, the metaphysical thesis that sufficiently advanced technology really is magic — namely the claim that a machine running a sufficiently advanced computer Read More ›