Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Asian woman doctor in personal protective suit or PPE wearing mask and goggles pray for covid-19 outbreak to improve. Medical, coronavirus, covid-19 and healthcare concept.

Excluding All Reference to God From Science Is A Form of Theology

It’s negative theology, to be sure, Michael Egnor and his guest Joshua Farris agree, but still a theology — and one with implications

In this third podcast discussion, “Don’t Blame Me, I’m a Meat Robot,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and theology professor Joshua Farris discuss how a belief in God is compatible with science. Egnor argues that belief in God is a necessity, to prevent science going off the rails: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/02/MInd-Matters-Episode-174-Joshua-Farris-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, and links follow: Michael Egnor: I wanted to talk just a little bit about philosophy of science and its relation to theology. First question is, is a belief in God compatible with the practice of science? It seems like a silly question, but it’s actually a pretty hot question nowadays… Joshua Farris: There’s this common idea that when we proceed utilizing the method of methodological naturalism — as methodological Read More ›

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Midsection of doctor wearing lab coat

We Trust Nonsense From Lab Coats More Than From Gurus

This shocking study is relevant to how we decide what to believe from science sources about COVID-19

An international team of researchers staged a revealing experiment on who we believe when they are talking nonsense. The test of 10,195 participants from 24 countries asked questions about the credibility of the statements and about their personal degree of religiosity. How could the researchers be sure that the statements were nonsense? They were produced by the New Age Bullshit Generator, an algorithm that generates impressive sounding elements of sentences that make rough grammatical sense even if they make no other sense. Two statements were selected: The 10,195 participants in the experiment were presented with two meaningless but profound-sounding statements: “We are called to explore the cosmos itself as an interface between faith and empathy. We must learn how to Read More ›

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Alien Planet with Moons

Recent Science Papers Support Science Fiction Premises

There isn’t a crystal clear boundary; both science and science fiction achievements require imagination

Good science fiction should start with science fact. But, of course, science is a dynamic enterprise that includes many current mysteries and uncertainties so there is plenty of room to develop an imaginative theme while exploring the edges. Here are five edges that a reader or writer may want to explore: ➤ It might indeed be possible to go through a wormholes to a distant galaxy, according to a recent paper. A wormhole, first envisioned by Einstein and Rosen in 1935, “is a special solution to the equations describing Einstein’s theory of general relativity that connects two distant points in space or time via a tunnel.” (LiveScience) It has long been considered at best hypothetical and at worst impossible but Read More ›

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Big Bang in Space, The Birth of the Universe 3d illustration

How Easy Is It To Imagine Absolutely Nothing?

Theories around the Big Bang provide an interesting test of the concept

The Big Bang is, for most, the beginning of all science questions about the universe … and the mind and all that Many dislike the Big Bang because, while it is makes the best sense of the universe, it implies that there is a God. What are the arguments either way? Some see the Big Bang as engineered, though not by a divine Mind. Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, argued in Scientific American last October that advanced aliens engineered the Big Bang and that, when we humans are sufficiently advanced, we will create other universes as well. Loeb’s hypothesis is not logically stranger than the many that attempt to account for the Big Bang without underlying information/intelligence. It does not appear Read More ›

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Planets and exoplanets of unexplored galaxies. Sci-Fi. New worlds to discover. Colonization and exploration of nebulae and galaxies

Astrophysicist: Stop Looking For Extraterrestrial Civilizations!

And accept that ‘Oumuamua was a natural object, though a very mysterious one

Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter, who specializes in the emptiest regions of the universe, tries to put the mystery of space object ’Oumuamua on a non-extraterrestrial footing. ‘Oumuamua, first spotted by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1) in Hawaii on October 19, 2017 — hence the Hawaiian name — was observed for only 11 days before it left the solar system. It was cigar-shaped and not very large (it could fit inside a football field) but it was weird. It was also the first object to visit our solar system that was known to come from interstellar space: It was, from the moment of its discovery, a weird object — weird orbit, weird speed, weird properties … Read More ›

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Very Large Array - New Mexico

The Drake Equation at 60 Years: The Second Most Famous Equation

After Einstein's e = mc squared. New technology is improving our ability to search the skies for signs of possible extraterrestrial civilizations

Last year marked the sixtieth year of the iconic Drake Equation, developed by astronomer Frank Drake aimed at stimulating the public to think about the prerequisites for life on other planets. Seth Shostak at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) says it is the most famous equation after e = mc2 and offers a bit of its history: The Drake Equation was cooked up by astronomer Frank Drake in 1961 to serve as the agenda for the first meeting on the topic of SETI. In 1960, Drake had conducted a pioneering search for extraterrestrial signals – a several-week long effort he named Project Ozma. Somewhat unexpectedly, this modest experiment attracted a great deal of attention, and Drake was encouraged by J.P.T. Read More ›

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Woman sleep on the bed turns off the alarm clock wake up at the morning, Selective focus.

Get Your 8 (or 5?) Hours of Sleep

Data misrepresentation may win you big gigs, but it makes a bad name for scientists

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology and founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has become famous for his book and a TED talk promoting the importance of sleep for health and performance. He even got a job at Google as a “sleep scientist.” Walker has a receptive audience because he is entertaining and his arguments make sense. In one of his books, Walker used a graph similar to the figure below to show that a study done by other researchers had found that adolescent athletes who sleep more are less likely to be injured. The figure is compelling, but there are several potential problems. The hours-of-sleep data were based on 112 responses to an online Read More ›

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Portrait of a Beautiful lion, lion in the dark

Will the Real “Predatory Journal” Please Stand Up?

Large publishers serve themselves by painting "predatory journals" with a broad brush

The scientific publishing industry has been on a hunt for what it calls “predatory journals.” They want to make sure that all scientific publications occur in “legitimate” and “reputable” journals. Additionally, they encourage scholars to avoid “predatory” journals which are there merely to enrich themselves by having you pay for access. While I agree with these ideas in principle, I’ve noticed more and more that the way that these principles are applied has been, well, incredibly self-serving for the journals. To begin with, let’s look at a commentary on predatory journals published in 2019 in the journal Nature: Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such Read More ›

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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of twin fetuses - week 17

There’s No Science Argument on Whether Unborn Children Are Human

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor notes that abortion activists argue that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother — that’s politics, not science

The recent March for Life in Washington featured signs like “Save the baby humans” (featuring a whale), “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love” – Mother Theresa” and “One heart stops; many hearts break.” Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has a message for people who wonder whether the preborn child is a human being: Ever ask #Why we should believe that a human embryo is a human life? There is no question about it—from the moment of conception, a unique human being exists. Pro-abortion activists will try to say that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother, but none of these are true. The science of sexual reproduction is as Read More ›

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alien

Physicist: Why Extraterrestrials Couldn’t Look Much Like Us

Except in films. They follow the same natural laws but conditions differ on each planet

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014), points out that the fact that there are trillions and trillions of worlds in our universe does not mean that anything we imagine can somehow exist: While the laws of physics and chemistry allow for similar processes to unfold across the Universe, they also act to limit what is possible or viable. Even if science doesn’t allow us to completely rule out what cannot exist, we can use the laws of physics and chemistry to infer what might. Marcelo Gleiser, “What is life like elsewhere in the Universe?” at Big Think (December 22, 2021) There is limit to diversity. While it may be possible for life to be based on Read More ›

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human head powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn

Prof: Fine-Tuning in Nature Is Due to the Mind of the Universe

Panpsychism’s take on intelligent design, as expressed in the exquisite fine-tuning of the universe for life, is an interesting new approach

Here’s a fascinating essay from 2018 by philosophy prof Philip Goff, author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness (2019). He discusses the fine-tuning of the universe as an argument for cosmopsychism (a form of panpsychism). Ideas like his are becoming respectable in mainstream science venues: In the past 40 or so years, a strange fact about our Universe gradually made itself known to scientists: the laws of physics, and the initial conditions of our Universe, are fine-tuned for the possibility of life. It turns out that, for life to be possible, the numbers in basic physics – for example, the strength of gravity, or the mass of the electron – must have values falling in a Read More ›

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mars

Remember When Mars Was Going To Land?

Today, now that we can reach Mars, we hope for mere fossils of bacteria

Sadly, the Mars meteorite, favored in recent years, has showed no evidence of life Whether there has ever been life on Mars is a different question from what the specifically meteorite shows (we would need to search the whole planet to be sure about life). But here is some recent disappointing news about the meteorite: Organic molecules found in a meteorite that hurtled to Earth from Mars were synthesized during interactions between water and rocks that occurred on the Red Planet about 4 billion years ago, according to new analysis led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele and published by Science. The meteorite, called Allan Hills (ALH) 84001, was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984 and is considered one of the oldest Read More ›

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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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3d rendering of Human cell or Embryonic stem cell microscope background.

Are the Brain Cells in a Dish That Learned Pong Conscious?

Human-derived organoids learned faster than AI and always outperformed mouse-derived organoids in terms of volley length, raising troubling questions

Recently, science media were abuzz with a remarkable story about minibrains (mouse and human brain cells in a dish) learning to play the video game Pong: Scientists have successfully taught a collection of human brain cells in a petri dish how to play the video game “Pong” — kind of. Researchers at the biotechnology startup Cortical Labs have created “mini-brains“ consisting of 800,000 to one million living human brain cells in a petri dish, New Scientist reports. The cells are placed on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes the neural activity. “We think it’s fair to call them cyborg brains,” Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs and research lead of the project, told New Scientist. Tony Tran, Read More ›

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Problem solving concept. Mixed media

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 Read More ›

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multiverse conceptual illustration

In an Infinity of Universes, Is Another You Reading This Article?

Maybe. But the recent science evidence is not especially encouraging

It is generally believed that the early universe widely inflated. So, reporting on a recent article submitted to Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter points out: First off, they found that eternal inflation wasn’t nearly as common as originally thought. Their explanation for why cosmologists had thought eternal inflation was generic was because those earlier cosmologists had studied only a limited set of models. They found that many viable inflation models (“viable” here means they didn’t obviously contradict observations) didn’t lead to an eternally inflating scenario. Paul Sutter, “How real is the multiverse?” at Space.com (December 16, 2021) Cosmologists line up on both sides: Prominent proponents of the multiverse have included well-known cosmologists such as Max Tegmark and Read More ›

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Billboard for the abandoned town of Nothing, Arizona.

How Can the Universe Have Arisen From Nothing?

We are asked to examine the problem logically

Science writer Prudence Louise offers some realism on the topic: The question of cosmic origins is a perennially popular question, but most theists think the answer has been known for thousands of years. God is the ultimate cause of the cosmos. While there’s room to disagree with that theistic conclusion, there are rational limits on the valid ways to reject it. None of the outcomes of rejecting God are appealing. They’re the sort of explanatory gaps we reluctantly accept in the wider context of our philosophical commitments. Prudence Louise, “Universes from Nothing?: Scientific euphemisms and equivocations” at Medium (November 21, 2021) (November 21, 2021) She runs through a number of ideas that sound popular in the lunchroom but don’t stand Read More ›

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Atom Particle

Discovering the Non-Materialist Dimension in Science

Hint: Stephen Hawking was a fine physicist and writer but not a very good philosopher

Rounding out their discussion at Theology Unleashed, neuropsychologist Mark Solms and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talk about physicists who point a way forward: A partial transcript of this portion, along with some notes, follows. Summary to date: In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. Then Solms pointed to the reality that discussing the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even Read More ›

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Twisted clock face. Time concept

The Central Mystery of the Universe Is Time

Physicists assume everything is reversible in principle — yet time isn’t. Why not?

Physicist Paul Davies unpacks it, so far as anyone can: Physicists first got to grips with the problem of the arrow of time in the middle of the nineteenth century by considering the behavior of gas molecules rushing around and colliding. Imagine a box of gas with a barrier down the middle. Suppose the gas on the left is hotter than on the right. If the barrier is removed, the faster-moving molecules on the left collide with the slower ones on the right, redistributing the energy. Soon the gas reaches a uniform temperature, a condition known as thermodynamic equilibrium. This process is irreversible. You never see the opposite happening. Without external interference, heat always flows from hot to cold. It’s Read More ›

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Jellyfishes in dark deep water

Nautilus Offers a “Primer” on Panpsychism

Noting the growth in interest from science writers as well as neuroscientists and philosophers, the magazine offers four essays discussing current approaches

Recently, we’ve been discussing the way panpsychism is creating competition for naturalism in the sciences. Where naturalism sees cognition/consciousness as an illusion that happen to aid survival, panpsychism sees it as part of the substrate of nature, more obviously present in more complex entities like humans than in less complex ones. Neither view appeals to the supernatural in principle but to the panpsychist, information is as much a part of nature as matter or energy. Its effects are pervasive and real. And consciousness is not something to just be explained away. Such a view may change the way many see nature on topics ranging from the environment to evolution. In a 2020 special edition of Nautilus, “Panpsychism: This Changes Everything,” Read More ›