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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Michael Egnor

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Finger pointing at data behind neon marquee

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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Girl hiding on the sea shore

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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Ape on pole

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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Unordnung im Kinderzimmer, Playmobil - und Legosteine warten auf eine Zusammensetzung
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 ›

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A hand stretched out in front

Does “Alien Hand Syndrome” Show That We Don’t Really Have Free Will?

One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it?

Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.

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Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools
Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools

Scientism is not a cure for stupidity

But never mind, quite a few science savants have rushed in fearlessly

A science writer tackled a big issue recently: stupidity. Who does he ask? Why, scientists of course. Surprisingly enough, it’s a question few scientists have grappled with, perhaps out of a desire not to wade into a subject that could so easily offend. After all, the field of intelligence studies is rife with controversy. Ross Pomeroy “What is Stupidity?” at Real Clear Science But never mind, quite a few science savants, unafraid to offend, have rushed in: Evolutionary biologist David Krakauer, President of the Santa Fe Institute,told Nautilus, “Stupidity is using a rule where adding more data doesn’t improve your chances of getting [a problem] right. In fact, it makes it more likely you’ll get it wrong.” I won’t contradict Read More ›

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Silhouette of a female as training her dog - website banner

The Real Reason Why Only Human Beings Speak

Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly

In his discussion of why only humans have language, science writer Tom Siegfried gets a lot right, but he misses the crucial reason.

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Pinball chute

How Can Mere Products of Nature Have Free Will?

Materialists don’t like the outcome of their philosophy but twisting logic won’t change it

Although most compatibilists have a more or less materialist view of nature, they find it impossible to shake the conviction that free will is real.

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Woman's hands typing on a pastel pink keyboard
Woman's hands typing on a pastel pink keyboard of retro laptop. Work and technology.

Could Your Computer Be Transgender?

A shift in basic philosophy can account for the new dogma that biological sex is a matter of culture and choice
Nominalism is a philosophical dead end that does not reflect underlying reality. But it has permeated our culture. We are told that there are no categories; everything is infinitely plastic. Read More ›
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Yelling and screaming amidst colorful powder in the air

How the Internet Turns Coffee Klatches into Mobs

A philosopher sheds light on how the Covington high school kids became America's Most Hated
The chaos and violence rising in our own country and around the world get much of their fuel from the obscurity and contagion of the internet, which is kerosene sprayed on the sparks tossed up by civilization. If we are to survive this conflagration, we must understand how these fires grow. Read More ›
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Human Fetus Week Nine

The Junk Science of the Abortion Lobby

Fetuses not only experience pain but experience it more intensely than do adults
Much of pro-abortion advocacy is science denial—the deliberate misrepresentation of science to advance an ideological agenda. Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, wrote a misleading essay on that theme in the New York Times, “Science won’t end this debate” (January 22, 2019). Read More ›
Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes
Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes

In One Sense, Consciousness IS an Illusion…

We have no knowledge of the processes of our consciousness, only of the objects of its attention, whether they are physical, emotional, or abstract
When we think, we think about reality, not about the neurological processes by which we connect to reality. It is by keeping this understanding clearly in mind that we escape the solipsism that bedevils modern neuroscience. Read More ›
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How is Human Language Different from Animal Signals?

What do we need from language that we cannot get from signals alone?
Language, which is the rule-based use of abstract designators, is essential for abstract thought because only designators can point to things that have no concrete physical existence. Only human beings think abstractly, and language is what makes abstract thought possible. Read More ›
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Hamlet: Did his perplexing neurotransmitters cause the tragedy?

The neuroscientist working from a mechanical perspective would study the material and efficient causes of Hamlet’s act of revenge.
It is essential to note that the Aristotelian neuroscientist, while delving into the complexities of Shakespeare’s remarkable psychological portrayal of this tortured man, can also study Hamlet’s murder of Claudius in just the same way that the mechanistic neuroscientist can. But he doesn’t lose the plot. Read More ›