Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Neurons electrical pulses. Interconnected neurons with electrical pulses.

How a Materialist Philosopher Argued His Way to Panpsychism

Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness

In 2018, science writer Robert Wright interviewed physicalist philosopher Galen Strawson (pictured) who, in a long conversation, explained the logical steps by which he — a philosopher who holds that nature is all there is and that everything is physical — also came to believe that consciousness underlies everything. Wright published a long excerpt from the discussion in June 2020, in which Strawson explains his reasoning. Wright starts things off by noting that “In recent years more and more philosophers seem to have embraced panpsychism—the view that consciousness pervades the universe and so is present, in however simple a form, in every little speck of matter.” Indeed, even publications like Scientific American have run panpsychist opinion pieces in recent years.…

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World philosophy day education concept: tree of knowledge planting on opening old big book in library with textbook  in natural background

Why Do Some Famous Materialist Scientists Hate Philosophy?

Philosopher of biology Massimo Pigliucci takes Richard Dawkins to task for dismissing philosophy but he might have said the same of Stephen Hawking

Massimo Pigliucci (pictured) makes clear that he is a naturalist (materialist) like zoologist Richard Dawkins. For example, he tells us that they crossed paths at a conference whose purpose was to promote naturalism (materialism): Over four centuries of scientific progress have convinced most professional philosophers and scientists of the validity of naturalism: the view that there is only one realm of existence, the natural world, whose behavior can be studied through reason and empirical investigation. The basic operating principles of the natural world appear to be impersonal and inviolable; microscopic constituents of inanimate matter obeying the laws of physics fit together in complex structures to form intelligent, emotive, conscious human beings. Sean Carroll, “Moving Naturalism Forward (announcement)” at Preposterous Universe…

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young bearded man opens the bottle of milk standing near fridge at home

If the Mind and Body Are So Different, How Can They Interact?

A look at different models of the mind–body problem

In this week’s podcast, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed Concordia University philosopher Angus Menuge on the notoriously difficult mind–body problem. In the first part, they talked about we know we are not just bodies, citing the immateriality and indivisibility of the mind and the evidence from near-death experiences. But then how does the immaterial mind interact with the material body? Menuge offers some initial thoughts: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-133-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 12:30 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Angus Menuge: Many philosophers, materialists like Hobbs, but even people sympathetic with Descartes, raised this issue — they couldn’t really see what was the mechanism or the medium by which mind and matter could interact. When…

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American staffordshire terrier dog with little kitten

Researchers Ponder Why Animals Adopt Other Species’ Orphans

Beliefs about what animals “should do” are often hampered by a lack of common sense reasoning and an outdated evolution theory

At The Conversation, evolutionary anthropologist Isabelle Catherine Winder (pictured) and anatomist Vivien Shaw pose a question, “Animal adoptions make no evolutionary sense, so why do they happen?“ For instance, scientists working with gorillas in Rwanda recently found the gorillas band together to take care of orphans. In these cases, young peers and (surprisingly) dominant adult males can be key to immature orphans’ survival. Perhaps it really does take a village to raise a child. Meanwhile researchers in DR Congo found that bonobos (apes closely related to chimpanzees) go even further, and sometimes adopt babies from a different social group. We even have examples of cross-species adoption, such as the dolphin who adopted and nursed a melon-headed whale, and a group…

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boy standing and looking at broken golden gear wheels, digital art style, illustration painting

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned

Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does…

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red dwarf star sun space view, 3d render

Could Red Dwarf Stars Host Planets With Intelligent Life?

Red dwarfs are much more numerous than brighter yellow dwarfs like our sun

Our Sun is a yellow dwarf star, shiny but comparatively short-lived. Red dwarfs are said to be the most common and longest-lived type of star in our galaxy. They are long-lived because they do not emit much radiance. How large are their habitable zones? A key problem turns on how much light they emit that is useful for life. That was quite a topic of discussion earlier this year at Centauri Dreams (dedicated to “Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration”). Astronomer and mathematician Henry Cordova offers some thoughts: All else being equal, the radiant flux received by the planet must then be directly proportional to the luminosity of the star, and inversely proportional to the square of the planet’s distance from…

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Concept of robots replacing humans in offices

Will Humans Ever Be Fully Replaceable by AI? Part 1

We must first determine, what is a person and what is the nature of the universe in which a person can exist?

The title question has been around for quite some time. In this discussion, I would like to take an ontological look at this question. What is the essential nature of being a person? To fully replace humans, what must AI machines become capable of? IF we want to consider the possibility of making humans obsolete, we need to know what is the essence of humanity? What is the ontological nature of a person? What characteristics define being a person? Even before we can address the essential nature of a person, we must identify the essential nature of the universe in which that person exists. What is the universe? How many dimensions does it have? Can the universe, or in it…

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Collage of portraits of young emotional people on multicolored background in neon. Concept of human emotions, facial expression, sales. Listening to music, delighted, winner, shocked. Flyer for ad

AI Prof Sounds Alarm: AI “Emotion Detectors” Are Faulty Science

An industry worth over $30 billion uses emotion recognition technology (ERT) on school children and potential hires

Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft, and author of Atlas of AI (2021), is warning at Nature that the COVID-19 pandemic “is being used as a pretext to push unproven artificial-intelligence tools into workplaces and schools.” The software is touted as able to read the “six basic emotions” via analysis of facial expressions: During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for monitoring workers and even children remotely. Take, for example, a system named 4 Little Trees. Developed in Hong Kong, the program claims to assess children’s emotions while they do classwork. It maps facial features to assign each pupil’s emotional state into a category such as happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise and fear. It also…

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Futuristic heads up display blue green abstract interface

How the Explanatory Filter Can Help Quash Conspiracy Theories

I found Dembski’s explanatory filter quite helpful in investigating voter fraud claims

William Dembski’s explanatory filter is a decision strategy for identifying events that are unlikely to have happened purely by chance. The filter proceeds in three main steps, which can be illustrated via the plot device in Contact, a novel (1985) by Carl Sagan, followed by a film (1997): Eliminate events of large probability (necessity): A radio telescope receives a pattern of beeps and pauses. Perhaps the pattern seems strange to us but we could just be overinterpreting inevitable space noise. Eliminate events of medium probability (chance): The pattern turns out to be a sequence of prime numbers. However, large randomly generated numbers sometimes feature apparent patterns (five 5s in a row, for example) that don’t signify anything. Specify the event…

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Big brother

How Orwell’s 1984 Can Be Seen As an Argument for God’s Existence

Atheism is not only fundamental to the power of the Party in 1984 but is also its central weakness

University of Nebraska political science prof Carson Holloway (pictured) asks, “Does discrediting the existence of God promote enlightened thinking or a lack of objective reality?” Unpacking the social structure in George Orwell’s classic totalitarian dystopia, 1984 (1949), he observes that not only does the Party have the power of life and death but the atheistic Party faithful fear death as utter annihilation: Atheism is the moral basis of the Party’s unlimited hold on its own members because it makes them terrified of death as absolute nonexistence. Like any government, the Party in 1984 has the power to kill disobedient subjects. Party members, however, view death not just as the end of bodily life, but as a complete erasure of their…

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alien

Zoologist: Law of Evolution Can Predict What Aliens Will Be Like

Arik Kershenbaum’s new book argues that convergent evolution on Earth helps us understand what to expect from extraterrestrial life

Cambridge zoologist Arik Kershenbaum, author of Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy (2021), thinks that convergent evolution here on Earth can offer us guides to what must happen on other planets that can support life. “Convergent evolution” means that radically different life forms arrive at the same solutions. He told science writer Dan Falk in an interview: Sometimes this “convergence” of traits is for something obviously useful, like wings. But sometimes convergence produces bizarrely similar creatures that share so many characteristics, it can be hard to believe they’re not closely related. The recently extinct thylacine [a large predatory marsupial native to Tasmania and mainland Australia], for example, could easily be mistaken for a peculiar breed of dog, but it’s much more…

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Labyrinth

Are We Humans Getting Smarter or Have We Peaked?

The really surprising thing, science writer David Robson notes, is that it may not matter as much as we think

The Flynn effect — where tested intelligence increased over past generations due to better health and more education — is said to be slowing. Of course, such findings are difficult to assess because they are subject to value judgments. But David Robson, author of The Intelligence Trap: Why smart people make dumb mistakes (2019), offers some useful observations, including asking what does the Flynn effect really measure?: James Flynn himself has argued that it is probably confined to some specific reasoning skills. In the same way that different physical exercises may build different muscles – without increasing overall “fitness” – we have been exercising certain kinds of abstract thinking, but that hasn’t necessarily improved all cognitive skills equally. And some…

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Purple transparent molecule model over purple

Could the World Above the Level of the Particle Be Superposed?

It’s been done with molecules. After that, there are barriers

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicistBruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: We were introduced to the quantum eraser experiment, which showed that what happens at the level of individual particles depends on whether you choose to measure it or not and to non-locality, the Cheshire Cat’s science of being in no one particular place at any time. Particles can do that even if we can’t. But wait: Is it possible that things larger than particles can in fact do that…

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Mad wide smile with many teeth on black background. Deco element, card-, flyer- base, clip art

IS the Moon There If No One Looks? Or Is There No “There” There?

Elementary particles do not need to be in a particular place until they are observed and then that's where they are

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicist Bruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: We were introduced to the quantum eraser experiment, which showed that what happens at the level of individual particles depends on whether you choose to measure or not. This segment looks at non-locality, the science of being in no one particular place. Elementary particles can do that too: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-130-Bruce-Gordon.mp3 This portion begins at 12:36 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Bruce Gordon: So another…

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Quantum Wave

In Quantum Physics, “Reality” Really Is What We Choose To Observe

Physicist Bruce Gordon argues that idealist philosophy is the best way to make sense of the puzzling world of quantum physics

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicist Bruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-130-Bruce-Gordon.mp3 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Michael Egnor: When I was in college, I was a biochemistry major and I took some courses in quantum mechanics. It was noted in the course that when you look at the most fundamental properties of subatomic particles, matter seems to disappear. That the reality of the subatomic particles is that they’re mathematical concepts. It utterly fascinated me…

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Bubbles

How Materialism Proves Unbounded Scientific Ignorance

There is an infinite number of things that are true that we cannot prove scientifically and never will

Science is based on a glut of laws from physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other areas. The assumption of scientific materialism, as I understand it, is that science has explained or will explain everything. The final conclusion of scientific materialism, also known as scientism, is nicely captured in a question chemist Peter Atkins asked philosopher William Lane Craig in a debate: “Do you deny that science can account for everything?” Scientism’s assumption that science can establish everything is self-refuting. Careful analysis shows that there is an infinite number of things that are true that we cannot prove scientifically and never will. Stephen Hawking saw the tip of the iceberg of this truth when he said, “Up to now, most people have…

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Chain hanging from the sky

Why the Universe Itself Can’t Be the Most Fundamental Thing

Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory

Jerry Coyne has posted in reply to my observation that God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary methods of science. That is to say, all proofs of God’s existence are scientific theories in the sense that they have the same logical structure as any other scientific theory that proposes explanations for the natural world. Scientific theories are inductive in that they depend upon evidence in the natural world to reach a conclusion. Thus demonstrations of God’s existence, for example Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, are scientific theories in the sense that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are scientific theories. Scientific theories can demonstrate the existence of things outside of nature…

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alien portrait with stars

SETI Director Warns: Those Aliens Could Be Malevolent

Harvard astronomer agrees: We’ve sent a lot of signals in recent years; they may have got them. But now what?

As the Mars Rover Perseverance bumps around looking for fossil bacteria and such, many students of possible ET life are becoming surprisingly cautious about what it might mean: “We have no reason to believe that technological advancement and altruism or morality are somehow linked,” SETI researcher Andrew Siemion told Inverse. “There probably are malevolent civilizations elsewhere in the universe so that’s certainly something that we should consider as we continue to explore the universe.” Siemion, who’s the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal of the alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project, is invoking a tension at the heart of any project searching for alien life. Successfully finding it would change the world — but there’s also no guarantee humanity…

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Sci-fi Saturday: New NBC X-files Clone “Debris” Feels Disjointed

Perhaps that’s intentional, though many critics aren’t getting it yet

Debris by J. H. Wyman (TV series, 2021, 13 episodes): “Two agents from two different continents, and two different mindsets, must work together to investigate why.” Debris, J. H. Wyman’s third major foray into science fiction (Fringe, and Almost Human being the others), seems to be getting a cool reception from critics and viewers alike. But maybe it needs time to coalesce. However, time and a forgiving audience are in short supply these days in the crowded entertainment landscape. The show’s premise is that an alien spacecraft has broken up in our solar system and crashed to earth, creating the “Debris” of the title. Of course, these artifacts cause strange “advanced technology” effects (not magic) and our government agents must…

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Tiny people betwixt logic board

Why Did a Prominent Science Writer Come To Doubt the AI Takeover?

John Horgan’s endorsement of Erik J. Larson’s new book critiquing AI claims stems from considerable experience covering the industry for science publications

At first, science writer John Horgan (pictured), author of a number of books including The End of Science (1996), accepted the conventional AI story: When I started writing about science decades ago, artificial intelligence seemed ascendant. IEEE Spectrum, the technology magazine for which I worked, produced a special issue on how AI would transform the world. I edited an article in which computer scientist Frederick Hayes-Roth predicted that AI would soon replace experts in law, medicine, finance and other professions. John Horgan, “Will Artificial Intelligence Ever Live Up to Its Hype?” at Scientific American (December 4, 2020) But that year, 1984, ushered in an AI winter, in which innovation stalled and funding dried up. By 1998, problems like non-recurrent engineering…