Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis



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…

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


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…

tiger battle
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 ›
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,…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,”…

Light bulb with big hands in moment of insight on blue

Physicist: Science, by Nature, Can’t Have a Theory of Everything

Such a theory is a sort of religious quest that has united philosophers, theologians, and scientists, But is it possible?

With admirable clarity, astronomer and physicist Marcelo Gleiser explains what a Theory of Everything is and is not: It’s not about every detail of life that happens to us. It’s the search for a single, underlying force that unites the four fundamental forces of nature — gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force — into one single underlying force. Why haven’t we found it? Well, first, he says, “We do not see this unity because it is only manifest at extremely high energies, well beyond what we can perceive even with our most powerful machines.” But second — and more significantly — there is a real question, Gleiser contends, whether science is by nature suited to…

Bull's eyes and head close-up, black and white photo of a bull.

Be On the Lookout for More Sokal Hoaxes

If you spot a Sokal hoax, let us know by tagging @cnaintelligence on Twitter

In a previous article, we noted that a group of researchers have been testing the rigor of social science journals by submitting fake articles and data in order to demonstrate problems in these branches of academics. These hoaxes, known as Sokal hoaxes (named after the original hoaxer, Alan Sokal), have now begun their third round, with the first detected paper in the journal Higher Education Quarterly. The paper, “Donor money and the academy: Perceptions of undue donor pressure in political science, economics, and philosophy,” has now been retracted, but it looks like this is not quite the end of the matter. The Chronicle of Higher Education managed to get in contact with the Sokal hoaxers. While their identities are anonymous, they responded to emails sent to the…

AGLA is a magical name of God

Egnor and Solms: What Does It Mean To Say God Is a Person?

Mark Solms and Michael Egnor discuss and largely agree on what we can rationally know about God, using the tools of reason

Last time out, as South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms and Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued to discuss the mind vs. the brain at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021). Solms said that he believed in Spinoza’s God — so did Albert Einstein, actually. Now he asks Egnor about the idea that God is a Person. 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…

Abstract Unique Young Woman Standing In the Middle Of A Galaxy Crack

Einstein Believed in Spinoza’s God. Who Is That God?

Neuropsychologist Mark Solms admits that life is “miraculous” and sees Spinoza’s God, embedded in nature, as the ultimate explanation

In the most recent portion of the discussion between South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms and Stony Brook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021), talk turned to defining consciousness. Which led in turn to the remarkable (in Solms’s view, “miraculous”) difference between life and non-life — which is not merely a matter of religious opinion. If an accounting is required, it turns out that even Einstein believed in some sort of God and Solms follows his thinking, as we see below. Egnor offers a different view. 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…

Exploration of Mars the Red planet of the solar system in space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

Will the Fossils We Find on Mars Be Fakes?

No, no, this is NOT a broadcast from Moonbat Central! False fossils are objects that look like fossils but aren’t

As we sift more and more of the surface of Mars, we’d love to find fossils. But then we may run into a problem that dogs paleontologists on Earth. From the University of Edinburgh: Rocks on Mars may contain numerous types of non-biological deposits that look similar to the kinds of fossils likely to be found if the planet ever supported life, a study says. Telling these false fossils apart from what could be evidence of ancient life on the surface of Mars — which was temporarily habitable four billion years ago — is key to the success of current and future missions, researchers say. University of Edinburgh, “Life on Mars search could be misled by false fossils, study says”…

black bull
Portrait of bull in profile

Are Sokal Hoaxes Really Helping Reform Science?

The evidence is mixed. The current prank on Higher Education Quarterly prompts some questions
It happened. Again. In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal submitted a mostly-nonsense paper to the journal Social Text. The purpose? To show that the social sciences, especially the critical theorists, were not intellectually rigorous. His paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was written so that anyone who was familiar with quantum gravity would know that it was a joke. Therefore, when it was accepted, it was obvious that no rigorous review process was in place. The journal apparently just accepted anything that sounded “intellectual-ish” and conformed to the editors’ idea of what scholarship looked like. It became known as the Sokal hoax. In 2017, a group of researchers began a similar hoax, later tagged as Sokal Squared. The goal, again, was to show that what the authors call “grievance studies” are undermining real scholarship by allowing nonsense to pass as scholarship. They managed to get several of their fake papers published, for example, Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon (May 22, 2018). In fact, for some of the papers that hadn’t been published by the time the experiment ended, the reviewers requested more outlandishness. That brings us to the present day. The education journal Higher Education Quarterly,” which is run by Wiley (a major academic publisher), published a new paper titled “Donor money and the academy: Perceptions of undue donor pressure in political science, economics, and philosophy.” If you take the alleged names of its authors, who cannot be traced to any institution of higher education, “Sage Owens” and “Kal Avers-Lynde III,” the initials spell out: S.O.K.A.L. III It is unclear at this writing what this third iteration of the Sokal Hoaxes is trying to prove. At Power Line, Steven Hayward suggests that the overall goal is to show that any paper can be published if it stokes the biases of leftist editors. If so, the hoaxers have pushed the right buttons: the Koch Brothers, the Federalist Society, right-wing interference… The problem? As search has demonstrated, the funders they study don’t actually fund the research they are studying and some of the organizations have been defunct through the entire period of study. One of them appears entirely fictitious. While we still don’t know who wrote “SOKAL III” or why, I think it is good to take a moment and reflect on academic hoaxes in general, and what they indicate. The goal of the hoaxers is to demonstrate that critical theory and “grievance studies” journals are only pseudo-academic. They want to show that obviously wrong papers get through as long as they conform to the style and expectations of the journal. So did these hoaxers succeed in their aim? To begin with, I should say that it is not the job of an editor or reviewer to catch falsified data. Journals assume that data associated with an article is legitimate and was legitimately obtained. Now, there are times when data is obviously wrong, and a worthwhile editor or reviewer should catch that. However, it is not the job of the reviewers to verify or repeat the experiment. They trust the reporting and merely make sure that the reasoning about the data is correct. Therefore, a proper hoax must illustrate more than just acceptance of falsified data. It has to illustrate acceptance of wrong reasoning about that data. Or, at minimum, the data must be so obviously wrong that any worthwhile reviewer would be able to spot it. However, there are other requirements of a proper experiment that the “Sokal squared” hoaxers seem to have left out. In order to show that the social science journals they targeted are more problematic than science journals, they would have needed a control group. Note that none of the Sokal hoaxers tried submitting nonsense to a science journal. Even other Darwinists often complain about “just-so” stories in evolutionary biology, and especially in evolutionary psychology. So why did the hoaxers not dream up an equivalently outrageous just-so biology story to see if it would pass peer review? Were they afraid to know the results? History says that, as long as you are proposing an evolutionary “just so” story, there is almost no idea that is too absurd to be published in even the topmost journals. The original Sokal hoax, too, had problems. The journal it was submitted to, Social Text, was not a peer-reviewed journal. In other words, the journal was not even claiming to have the same scholarship standards as science journals. In fact, they were relying on Sokal himself to provide the expertise on physics, which was the primary reason for including him. So, while I am in basic agreement with the hoaxers about the general quality of critical theory and “grievance studies” journals, I find it odd that the hoaxers, so certain of their proposition, seem to be unscientific in their approach to finding out the answers. In fact, we don’t even need to go into hoaxes to see that the same sort of implicit bias can infect ordinary science journals. As noted by Michael Crichton and followed up on here at Mind Matters News, science journals have been ready to publish whatever the latest trendy topic is for decades, no matter how bad the science content. Then, for topics that are less trendy, they will sometimes retract legitimate papers which have been properly reviewed simply because the topic is out of favor. If an idea is in favor, then, as we’ve seen, the requirements for rigor are relaxed significantly. So, while I appreciate the attempts of the Sokal hoaxers to demonstrate biases and poor scholarship in the social sciences, I fear that those in the harder sciences will use this as an excuse to ignore their own problems with bias and poor scholarship. Note: “SOKAL III” has now been retracted. You may also wish to read: Twenty years on, aliens still “cause global warming” Over the years, the Jurassic Park creator observed, science has drifted from its foundation as… Read More ›
Ant action standing.Ant bridge unity team,Concept team work together

For Ants, Building a Bridge Is No “Simple” Task

There is nothing “simple” about designing neural systems and the computer systems to receive and interpret neural sensory inputs

Researching for my previous Mind Matters article about bird and bee biological software, I came across a short piece at Quanta Magazine entitled “The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges.” Really, a “simple” insect algorithm? Intriguing. Eric Cassell’s book, Animal Algorithms (2021), reveals the complex and intricate hardware-software systems enabling bird and insect procedures for migration, building nests and structures, social cooperation, and navigation. Grounded in engineering training and experience, Cassell shows that animal algorithms must be designed top-down starting with a goal, fashioning the data input sensors, developing the necessary procedures, and implementing them in software to direct hardware. Yet the Quanta Magazine piece reported that Panamanian army ants’ procedures for building bridges of living ants is accomplished using a “simple algorithm.” The problem the army…

Girls eye with paint and earth
Girls eye with paint and earth

Why Panpsychism Is Starting To Push Out Naturalism

A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work

Naturalism, often called “materialism,” posits that nature is all there is. Panpsychism doesn’t dispute that. But the panpsychist also thinks that consciousness is real — present in all nature (or all living nature) but especially developed in humans. Last Monday, writing about a classical atheist naturalist who was attacking panpsychism, I reflected on the difficulties the trend to panpsychism presents him. The naturalist is hostile to the panpsychist because he assumes that human consciousness will, in due course, be explained away. It is either an illusion, or an aid to survival that evolved among early humans. Or perhaps it is a spandrel (in evolution theory, a useless accompaniment of useful traits). In short, what we thought was our means of…

Another World Far Away

Exoplanets: The Same Laws of Physics Means Similar Life Forms

Even on Earth, life forms of widely differing ancestry, arrive at the same solutions to physics problems, leading scientists note

Famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was sure that, if the deck were reshuffled, humans would never evolve — even on this planet — again. As Paul Parsons puts it at BBC’s Science Focus Magazine, His reasoning was that evolution is driven by random sets of genetic mutations, modulated by random environmental effects, such as mass extinctions, and that it would be extremely rare for the exact same set of effects to crop up twice. Paul Parsons, “Could humans be the dominant species in the Universe, and we just don’t know it yet?” at Science Focus (November 19, 2021) But as very large telescopes, capable of peering into exoplanets, are under development, current analysts are rethinking that approach. There are…