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CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

Speed of Painted Dream

A Theoretical Physicist Grapples With the Math of Consciousness

Looking at the various theories, she is not very happy

She’s not very happy with what she sees: The currently most popular mathematical approach to consciousness is integrated information theory, IIT for short. It was put forward by a neurologist, Giulio Tononi, in two thousand and four. In IIT, each system is assigned a number, that’s big Phi, which is the “integrated information” and supposedly a measure of consciousness. The better a system is at distributing information while it’s processing the information, the larger Phi. A system that’s fragmented and has many parts that calculate in isolation may process lots of information, but this information is not “integrated”, so Phi is small. For example, a digital camera has millions of light receptors. It processes large amounts of information. But the…

open eye in space

Science-Based Reasons Why Materialism Is a Dead End

Bernardo Kastrup points out that there is an “impassable explanatory gap between material quantities and experiential qualities.”

Bernardo Kastrup, a Dutch computer scientist and philosopher who has published fundamental theoretical reflections on the mind matter problem, offers some useful reflections on why materialism can’t really be true. First—and we sometimes forget this—science only exists as it is perceived by the human mind. We could do it well or badly or someway in between. We could succeed or fail. But it is a world of ideas, not things. He writes, Materialism—the view that nature is fundamentally constituted by matter outside and independent of mind—is a metaphysics, in that it makes statements about what nature essentially is. As such, it is also a theoretical inference: we cannot empirically observe matter outside and independent of mind, for we are forever…

Psychology concept. Sunrise and woman silhouette.

Can Our Minds Extend Beyond Our Bodies?

It depends on how we define our “minds” — Can we disentangle our minds from our experiences?

Well, here’s a fun coffee break challenge offered by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., the author of Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (2016): … our mind is not simply our perception of experiences, but those experiences themselves. Siegel argues that it’s impossible to completely disentangle our subjective view of the world from our interactions. “I realized if someone asked me to define the shoreline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the shore is both sand and sea,” says Siegel. “You can’t limit our understanding of the coastline to insist it’s one or the other. I started thinking, maybe the mind is like the coastline—some…

Aphrodisiac pill for libido and sexual drive

Can a Hormone Explain Why Humans Love Each Other?

Some researchers think they have zeroed in on an explanation, oxytocin

Some researchers have been trying to understand why mothers love their children: When it comes to biological mechanisms of empathy, scientists are particularly interested in oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” High oxytocin levels predict sensitive parenting, but it isn’t clear how the oxytocin-related gene might generate variation in empathy and parental behavior. One possible explanation is epigenetic changes to the gene — a way of altering gene function without changing the actual DNA sequence. Specifically, “DNA methylation” — the addition of a chemical group called the “methyl” group at specific locations — in the oxytocin gene (called OXT) has been associated with personality traits and brain structure in humans. This raises a question: can methylation of OXT influence empathy in…


How Do We Know What Is Real? Philosopher J. P. Moreland Can Help

This coming August will mark the beginning of a battle that I began with three different forms of cancer that I continue to this day to be fighting. I don’t know how long I have… When is it okay to disagree with what the majority of experts in a field believe? … I’m going to go with the majority of experts, unless something happens. If there are two conditions present, you are justified in going against the vast majority of experts. Number 1: If the majority opinion is based on non-rational factors If there is a small, educated rebel group who publish in peer-reviewed journals and high quality books who have provided an alternative paradigm. (July 9, 2018) Remember Moreland’s…

Trust Concept

#3 AI, We Are Now Told, Knows When It Shouldn’t Be Trusted!

Gödel's Second Incompleteness Theorem says that, for any system that can reliably tell you that things are true or false, it cannot tell you that it itself is reliable.

Okay, so, in #4, we learned that Elon Musk’s utterly self-driving car won’t be on the road any time soon. What about the AI that knows when it shouldn’t be trusted? (As if anyone does!) Our nerds here at the Walter Bradley Center have been discussing the top twelve AI hypes of the year. Our director Robert J. Marks, Eric Holloway and Jonathan Bartlett talk about overhyped AI ideas (from a year in which we saw major advances, along with inevitable hypes). From the AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part III, here’s #3: AI that knows when it shouldn’t be trusted: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-115-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at 12:57. Here’s a partial transcript. Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link…

Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

#2 Computers Can Be As Smart As Humans If We Crowdfund Them!

Eric Holloway: Y Combinator's Sam Altman is taking a crazy movement to its logical conclusion

So, in #3, AI knows when it shouldn’t be trusted? even though no one else does? But now, what about #2?: Sam Altman’s leap of faith!, that an AI will think like people: Earlier this year, founder-investor Sam Altman left his high-profile role as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research outfit that was founded by some of the most prominent people in the tech industry in late 2015. The idea: to ensure that artificial intelligence is “developed in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity,” as one of those founders, Elon Musk, said back then to the New York Times. The move is intriguing for many reasons, including that…

Close Up Of Granddaughter Hugging Grandmother In Park

Some Scientists Struggle With Why There Are Grandmothers

Why do humans live to be old when most animals don’t? Pop psychology weighs in

Pop science specialist Alison Gopnik, author of several books, including The Philosophical Baby (2010) and Scientist in the Crib (1999) explains grandmothers: On an evolutionary timescale, Homo sapiens emerged only quite recently. Yet in that short time, we have evolved a particularly weird life history, with a much longer childhood and old age than other animals. In particular, we’re very different from our closest primate relatives. By at least age seven, chimpanzees provide as much food as they consume, and they rarely live past 50 – there’s no chimp equivalent of human menopause. Even in forager cultures, where growing up is accelerated, children aren’t self-sufficient until they’re at least 15. What’s more, even in communities without access to modern medicine,…

baby chimpanzee ape at the zoo.

If DNA Doesn’t Make Humans Different From Chimps, What Does?

How do we get to Beethoven’s Fifth and quantum theory?

Some neuroscientists think they have an idea worth pursuing: With only 1% difference, the human and chimpanzee protein-coding genomes are remarkably similar. Understanding the biological features that make us human is part of a fascinating and intensely debated line of research. Researchers at the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and the University of Lausanne have developed a new approach to pinpoint, for the first time, adaptive human-specific changes in the way genes are regulated in the brain… To explain what sets human apart from their ape relatives, researchers have long hypothesized that it is not so much the DNA sequence, but rather the regulation of the genes (i.e. when, where and how strongly the gene is expressed), that plays the…

The human stomach is strong. The internal organs are shaped by green trees. (environment)

Did You Know You Have a Second Brain?

Our guts operate on a quite separate nervous system. Learning more will help control gastrointestinal diseases

Our huge gastrointestinal tracts operate their own nervous system, using neurons that follow different principles from those of brain neurons, according to recent findings: Our approximately seven-meter long gastrointestinal (GI) tract has its own functionally distinct neurons. Since this enteric nervous system (ENS) operates autonomously, it is sometimes referred to as the “second” or “abdominal” brain. While the ENS controls muscle movement (peristalsis) in the gut and its fluid balance and blood flow, it also communicates with the immune system and microbiome. Karolinska Institutet, “New fundamental knowledge of the ‘abdominal brain’” at Medical Xpress (December 7, 2020) Paper. (subscription required) The Karolinska researchers made progress in studying the little-understood second brain by mapping the neuron types in the digestive systems…

Inner Life of Super Human

A Silicon Valley Psychologist Doesn’t Believe in Consciousness

Duncan Riach thinks that, with increasing complexity, computers will appear to be conscious too but it’s a misunderstanding for both humans and computers

Duncan Riach, who believes that computers can become selves, doesn’t believe in consciousness. As he explains, I’ve lost friends over this because a denial of consciousness undermines a final refuge of the arrogance of selfhood: universal consciousness. But even most normal people are strongly insistent that consciousness is a real thing, a special thing, and that they possess it. The problem I have is that there’s not only no evidence for it, but what people seem to be referring to as consciousness is explainable as an effect no more unusual, no less materialistically explainable, than water flowing downhill… Rather than jumping to the conclusion that this body has a soul and/or that somehow this “I am,” this feeling of something…


Psychologist: Consciousness Is Not a Thing But a Point of View

Mark Solms attempts to explain consciousness in his new book, Hidden Spring

Anyone who thinks about consciousness soon realizes that it is a Hard Problem. It means being a subject of experience, rather than an object to which experiences happen. A dog has consciousness. He yelps when in pain. But a rock does not care about becoming sand. In an interesting article in Psychology Today, neuropsychologist Mark Solms outlines some thoughts from a book he has written on the subject, The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness (Norton, 2021): Physiological processes do not produce consciousness in the sense that the liver produces bile. Consciousness is not a thing but rather a point of view. What we perceive objectively as physiological processes in the brain we perceive subjectively as conscious…

3D Illustration Emotionen als Freisteller

Can We Teach a Computer to Feel Things? A Dialogue…

Okay, There’s the computer’s side… and then there’s the dog’s side. Listen to both

The dialogue got started because of a gifted computer nerd, Rosalind Picard, also a playwright (pictured), who decided to become an evangelical Christian in midlife (approx 2019). As she tells it, “a flat, black-and-white existence suddenly turned full-color and three-dimensional.” The director of MIT’s Media Lab, she had also written a book in 2000 called Affective Computing which seems to suggest that one could somehow give emotions to machines. I asked Eric Holloway to help me figure that one out: O’Leary: Emotions are based on actual well-being or suffering. How can something that is not alive have actual emotions? Don’t think of people here!; think of dogs. Dogs have emotions. When my computer is giving trouble, I certainly hope it’s…

Sun over green grass field

Walter Bradley: An Engineer Who Has Made a Difference

He has impacted many, many lives, and the world is a much better place because of him

Mind Matters News is sponsored by the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Discovery Institute. A new biography is just out about Distinguished Fellow, Walter Bradley, after whom our center is named. Walter Bradley has been many things: scientist, professor, NASA researcher, proponent of reconciliation of faith and science, and a leader in empowering people in Africa with appropriate technologies. Walter Bradley is not a household name, but in a fairer world he would be. He’s sort of like George Bailey in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life: He has impacted many, many lives, and the world is a much better place because of him. Titled For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter…

Hot air balloons flying over spectacular Cappadocia.Turkey

Help Mind Matters News Continue in 2021

In an otherwise bad year, you have a chance to make your mind matter

Please help Mind Matters News thrive in 2021 by donating to our sponsor. We live in a culture where human uniqueness is increasingly questioned, and where claims about “intelligent” machines replacing human beings are embraced without serious skepticism. So where can you go to separate fact and fiction when it comes to debates over humans and machines? If you are reading this article, you know where: Mind Matters News! We supply news, analysis, and weekly podcasts that explore issues relating to mind, brain, neuroscience, personal responsibility, free speech, automation, and the use and abuse of new technologies. We do this all from the perspective that humans are unique and can’t be replaced by machines. Under the editorship of Denyse O’Leary,…

ai, analysis, artificial intelligence, automation, big data, brain, business, cg, cloud computing, communication, computer graphics, concept, creative, cyber, deep learning, digital transformation

Why did the Human Brain Project Crash and Burn?

To simulate the human brain on a computer was a top flight EU project a decade ago. Today, a filmmaker explores the rubble dreams leave behind

The Human Brain Project from 2013 sounded like science fiction in an EU setting: We will build a brain in a decade: “And, if we do succeed, we will send, in ten years, a hologram to talk to you.” Well, we all got one thing right. It was fiction. Filmmaker Noah Hutton, a sympathetic observer, chronicled the decline, producing a documentary, In Silico, that focuses on booster Henry Markram who, according to his TED talk bio from 2009, was “director of Blue Brain, a supercomputing project that can model components of the mammalian brain to precise cellular detail — and simulate their activity in 3D. Soon he’ll simulate a whole rat brain in real time.” When the project started to…

A girl in a hat on top of a hill in silence and loneliness admires the calm natural landscape and balloons.

Why Consciousness Shows That Materialism Is False

The mind refutes materialism in a rather straightforward way

My friend and colleague Bill Dembski, a leading advocate of intelligent design of the universe and life forms, has done a superb short interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn on Closer to Truth. Bill takes a position that will surprise many fellow Christians—he doesn’t believe that consciousness represents an insurmountable challenge to materialism: Bill makes the point that much of the popular argument hinges on shifting meanings of “materialism” and “consciousness.” By contrast, he argues, the design inference in biology is a much more effective challenge to materialism. I agree that design in nature is an effective challenge to materialism. But I also believe that the mind refutes materialism in a rather straightforward way—and in much the same way that evidence…

Everyone Has A Story, typed words on a vintage typewriter. old paper. close-up. my history

Do We Really Remain the Same Person Throughout Our Lives?

Or is the continuity of our selves just an illusion?

That’s an interesting question because most cells in our bodies will die and be replaced a number of times. Many brain cells die but they are not replaced. They are just gone. So what, if anything, remains the same? One well-known professor of psychology, Susan Blackmore (pictured), argues that there is no continuity between our present selves and our past selves: Susan says there is an “illusion of continuity”, but what we think is “us” is just a “multiple parallel system” with “multiple parallel things going on”. So, she says, “the so-called me now is just another reconstruction. There was another one half an hour ago, and there’ll be another one, but they’re not really the same person, they’re just…

Laboratory mice in the experiment test. Blue filter.

Has Neuroscience “Proved” That the Mind Is Just the Brain?

This is hardly the first time that bizarre claims have been made for minimal findings. In neuroscience, materialism is the answer only if you don’t understand the questions.

Last month, materialist neurologist Steven Novella made a rather astonishing claim in a post at his Neurologica blog: A recent open-access study of learning and decision-making in mice shows that the human mind is merely what the human brain does. That’s a lot for mice to prove. In the study, the mice were trained to choose holes from which food is provided. Their brain activity was measured as they learned and decided which holes were best. The research looks specifically at quick and intuitive decision-making vs. decision-making that is slower and involves analysis of the situation. The investigators found that analysis-based decisions in the mice involve brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region of the brain…

Man in gray long sleeve shirt sitting on brown wooden chair

Neuroscientist: Your Brain Isn’t for Thinking, Just Surviving

Lisa Feldman Barrett hopes that her materialist perspective will help us deal with our current anxieties

Last Sunday, we featured the views of philosopher Samir Chopra, who argues that anxiety, while distressing, is a normal outcome of our human ability to see the past and the future as well as the present. A pig gets anxious when he sees that his trough is empty. But he cannot, by nature, know that he is destined for the menu at a local fast food place, let alone that all his kin have gone that way. Knowing the past and sensing the future opens up both great powers and vast avenues of anxiety for a human mind. But, in an op-ed in the New York Times, psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett (pictured), the author of Seven and a…