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CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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Breaking Through Concept

Michael Egnor: Denying Free Will Is Totalitarian

Specifically, “The denial of free will is the cornerstone of totalitarian systems.” That’s what he told podcaster Lucas Skrobot in the second of two podcast discussions: Dr. Michael Egnor | Free Will and Totalitarian Ideologies (Part 2 of 2) [E152] Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has written a fair bit on free will for Mind Matters News. Here are some selections to consider: No free will means no justice: “Free will is the cornerstone of all human rights and the cornerstone of our Constitutional rights. The denial of free will is, literally, the denial of human freedom. Without free will, we are livestock, without the presumption of innocence, without actual innocence, and without rights. A justice system that has no respect for Read More ›

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Psychology concept. Sunrise and woman silhouette.

Neurosurgeon Explains Why You Are Not a Zombie

Podcaster Lucas Skrobot recently interviewed neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the difference between the mind and the brain. Egnor told him, “My wife jokes with me that meeting me is always the worst part of a person’s life.” At 22:08, Dr. Egnor provides a thought experiment to explain that minds must transcend materials—the zombie problem. The zombie problem? Ah yes, the philosophers’ zombie: For that, you might also see one of Egnor’s articles: “Neuroscientist Michael Graziano should meet the p-zombie.” To understand consciousness, we need to establish what it is not before we create any more new theories: A p-zombie (a philosophical zombie, as distinguished from the kind that sells movies) is identical to a human being but has no first-person Read More ›

man inside man

The Grammar of Consciousness: I vs. Me

Long ago, in elementary school English grammar, many of us learned about the first person singular: I, me, my, mine. (And then went on to all the others… ) In a long and interesting (paywalled) article about theories of consciousness, we learn about efforts to distinguish between “I” and “me.” In one experiment, a neuroscientist, Catherine Tallon-Baudry has tried to distinguish: This time, they homed in on the distinction between “I” and “me”. Tallon-Baudry says “I” captures the most basic aspect of self – the aspect that comes before thought, the unified entity that does the thinking. It is fundamentally different from the kind of reflection about “me” that implies monitoring different bodily functions without that sense of unity. To Read More ›

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3D rendering abstract round light background

John Lennox: How AI Raises the Stakes for All of Us

This is an excerpt from John Lennox‘s 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (Zondervan 2020) published with permission: In April 2018 at the TED talks in Vancouver physicist and cosmologist MaxTegmark, president of the Future of Life Institute at MIT, made this rather grandiose statement: “In creating AI [artificial intelligence], we’re birthing a new form of life with unlimited potential for good or ill.” A study by Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson entitled The Digital Ape carries the subtitle How to Live (in Peace) with Smart Machines. They are optimistic that humans will still be in charge, provided we approach the process sensibly. But is this optimism justified? The director of Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study Read More ›

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Dream sequence in abstract tunnel to heaven or hell. possible out of body

Newfound Respect in Science Literature for Near-Death Experiences

For example, when people claim that they could see colors not normally available to humans, there is at least a possible science basis for that.

One really interesting change in science literature on near death experiences in recent years has been growing respect, possibly due to more information about them. For example, when people claim that they could see colors not normally available to humans, there is at least a possible science basis for that. In a recent edition of Scientific American neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, founded by a Microsoft billionaire, doesn’t discount them. He would like to find a fully naturalist explanation but that is quite different from past efforts to explain them as mere hallucinations, which failed to take into account their life-changing effects. He has said about them, I accept the reality of these Read More ›

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Magpie (Pica pica)

Is the Turing Test Misguided? George Montañez comments

When you think about it, the Turing test is a bit of a scam. Human beings are supposed to guess whether we are talking to computers purely according to answers. But clever answers can be precoded by a clever person. We could be talking to a well-trained magpie. George Montañez of Harvey Mudd College argues that the question of whether machines can think, as posed in Alan Turing’s seminal paper in 1950 , “Computing machines and intelligence,” is too vague to admit of an exact answer. Besides which, it is kind of complicated. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-088-George-Montanez.mp3 Transcript. As he told Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks in a recent podcast: George Montañez Yeah. So, there was actually three versions of the Read More ›

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Speak

How Do Sounds Contain Ideas?

Human language differs from animal and plant communication systems in that it enables the transmission of ideas

It’s not a simple question! Human language differs from animal and plant communication systems in that it enables the transmission of ideas, which are abstractions. Think of the Pythagorean theorem or tripartite government. Many explanations of how human language came to exist seem to be stabbing in the dark. Here are some of the current theories: Could language have arisen from hand gestures? We are told that “Wild chimpanzees, for example, have been seen to use at least 66 different hand signals and movements to communicate with each other. Lifting a foot towards another chimp, for example, means ‘climb on me’, while stroking their mouth can mean ‘give me the object’” (Horizon August 20, 2019). But these aren’t ideas, just Read More ›

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direction arrows on asphalt ground, feet and shoes on floor

A Theoretical Physicist Defends Free Will

Physics, he says, has made huge strides, but has not upset free will

George Ellis, considered a world leader in relativity and cosmology (right, courtesy David Monniaux), offers some thoughts: Physics has made huge strides since the days of Laplace; indeed, it would be completely unrecognisable to him. Yet there are still physicists today who confidently proclaim that we can’t have free will because physics determines everything, including brain functioning – entirely ignoring the complex context and the power of constraints. If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be Read More ›

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EEG Test on an Elderly Man at Hospital Laboratory

Can We Really Cheat Death by Downloading Our Brains?

Through the ages, we have thought of unique ways to avoid death. Could the internet and artificial intelligence help?

Last October, Jay Richards, author of The Human Advantage, caught up with Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a Baylor University computer engineering prof, at COSM 2019 to ask, what are our cheat-death chances? They were responding to futurist Ray Kurzweil’s heady claims made at the conference that we will merge with computers by 2045 and live on as AI. Richards and Marks reflected on Kurzweil’s claims and the thoughts of the panel responding to them. Here’s a partial transcript: Jay Richards: He’s (Kurzweil, below right) very much a sort of, I’d say, a techno-optimist. And in fact, he sort of thinks we’re going to get brain scans and upload ourselves, whereas the panel… Though I know there was a Read More ›

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Young man shaving

Nominalism: The Stubble Left by Ockham’s Razor

Ockham was a methodological minimalist, not a philosophical minimalist
Ockham did not say that complex metaphysical realities don’t exist. He said that we should trim our understanding of reality to the use of as few concepts as possible for reasons of efficiency, even at the cost of absolute precision. Ockham may thus be said to be a methodological minimalist. Read More ›
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A hand pointing at brain MRI on the light box

Why Brain Activity Doesn’t Reveal Our Minds

There is poor correlation between different scans of even the same person’s brain, experienced researchers say

At one time, we were told that, one day, machines will read our minds. But, now researchers say, the more we know about the brain (set aside the mind for a moment), the more reasons we have for doubt: But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person’s brain. Karl Leif Bates, “Studies of brain activity aren’t as useful as scientists thought” at Duke Today Brain scanning—functional MRI (fMRI)—tells us about general brain structures, says Duke University neuroscientist Ahmad Hariri, who led a team that reanalyzed the data. It doesn’t say much about the Read More ›

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hombre joven hundido en fondo tipo minecraft

Philosopher: Sims Do Not Understand Simhood

Richard Johns explains how you can know for sure that you are not a sim

Recently, philosopher Richard Johns (left), whose work was profiled here at Mind Matters News in “A philosopher explains why thinking matter is impossible,” has now written a piece for Medium. In it, he explains why we cannot create a sim that is a conscious, rational being. He uses a dialogue between “Alice” and “The Programmer” to unpack the idea: The dialogue begins with Alice returning from school to find a strange little man in her apartment. He seemed not to notice her entering the room, and remained seated comfortably in Alice’s favourite armchair, reading her own copy of Nick Bostrom’s “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”. “Who the hell are you?” Alice shrieked. “What are you doing in my Read More ›

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Sad wife holding wedding ring on coronavirus confinement

Does COVID-19 Lead Women to Cheat?

The “subpersonal” approach to human psychology is popular but is it valid?

It's an open question whether the mind evolved at all and therefore whether evolutionary psychology is any help in understanding it.

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walnut split on a white background

My Right Hemisphere Is An Atheist! No, Wait …

In reality, split-brain surgery does not split consciousness in any meaningful sense

The atheist neuroscientist who has made bizarre claims about the outcomes of split brain surgery appears not to know much about neurosurgery.

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Two Astronauts on the Alien Planet Discover Plant Life. Space Travel, Discovery Of Habitable Worlds and Colonization Concept.

Is Intelligence Common or Rare in the Universe?

A recent analysis says that life is common but intelligence not so much. Let’s explore the reasoning

We really don't know anything about life elsewhere in the universe so even university-trained scientists often try to WISH it into existence.

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Free-range red angus cattle on pasture, Argentina.

No Free Will Means No Justice

Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system

Without free will, no one is innocent. Who asks cattle on the way to the abattoir if they are guilty or innocent?

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ufo flying over the desert

Close Encounters, Fifth Kind, Just Missed Contact

Worth a watch but Stephen Greer and I part company when he makes clear that he believes everything is conscious

In his documentary on UFOs, Stephen Greer certainly gets one thing right: Consciousness doesn’t fit into conventional science inquiry.

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Bright light at the end of the dark spooky coridor. Concept of near death experience

Neuroscience Can’t Dismiss Near Death Experiences

It’s sobering to note that neuroscience has utterly failed to explain how the brain and mind relate

Despite claims, NDEs are radically different from any mental experience caused by brain impairment.

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man jumping on rock formation

Is Materialism Falsifiable? Yes, Easily.

Neurologist Steven Novella is sure that materialism is not falsifiable by science

Contrary to Steven Novella's claims, cosmological singularities refute materialism. Kurt Gödel can explain

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Father And Young Son Reading Book Together At Home

Fatherhood Is Not “Subpersonal”

Human fathers care (but gorillas don’t) because fatherhood depends on explicitly human ideas

Why do men see themselves as “fathers” but male gorillas don’t? Proposed answers from evolutionary psychology are hopelessly inadequate.

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