Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagArjuna Das

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Knowing the Enemy

Debate: Former Atheist Neurosurgeon vs. Former Christian Activist

At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other

“Does God exist?” On September 17, in a rip-roaring old-fashioned debate, Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty debated the question at Theology Unleashed. We’ll cover this debate for you, including transcripts and notes. First, each participant was given a chance upfront to state where he is coming from and why. Michael Egnor, representing the Yes side, went first. How did a medic, formerly an atheist, who cuts open people’s brains for a living, come to be sure there is a God? And how did a fundamentalist Christian come to be hosting The Atheist Experience? The debate hosts are Arjuna Das for Theology Unleashed and Nathan from Digital Gnosis as the moderator. A partial transcript and notes follow.…

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Inside the brain. Concept of neurons and nervous system.

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the Timing of Sensory Processing

One neuroscientist, encountering the timing, made up a theory that didn’t really work, but he was a great neuroscientist anyway

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with host Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, Dr. Egnor talked about the troubles of being a non-materialist medical scientist, including demands that he be fired and death threats and so forth. In this segment, he talks about the meaning of “soul” in philosophy. Not a “spook” of some kind but common sense reasoning about life and death: Arjuna Das: So there’s a delay in how long it takes for the brain to process visual sensations compared to auditory sensations. So it’s a half second delay and this creates a problem. … We have no free will then. (01:57:50) Michael Egnor: If I can…

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Concept of shame and ridicule

Non-Materialist Science Is Wanted — Dead or Alive

Exploring a non-materialist approach to the mind has included a death threat for neurosurgeon Michael Egnor

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which epilepsy provides a glimpse into the way the mind is not simply the brain but has powers in its own right. In this segment, Dr. Egnor talks about the problems of being a non-materialist physician in a materialist world — death threats and all. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 44 minute mark to the 1 hour 56 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You said how scientists, if they reject physicalism, it doesn’t help their career. They might get less opportunities or less prestige or whatever… I…

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Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept

Epilepsy: If You Follow the Science, Materialism Is Dead

Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnordid a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which people’s minds sometimes become much clearer near death (terminal lucidity). Dr. Egnor suggested that that may demonstrate that the brain constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at objections raised to the view that epilepsy provides evidence for the mind as not merely a function of the brain. Dr. Egnor begins by focusing on the work of Wilder Penfield, the founder of epilepsy surgeries, who worked in Montreal in the mid-twentieth century, “a wonderful scientist, one of the best scientists that neurosurgery has produced”: Here is a…

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Caregiver supporting sick woman with cancer dying in the hospital

Why Do Some People’s Minds Become Much Clearer Near Death?

Arjuna Das and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor discuss the evidence for terminal lucidity at Theology Unleashed “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at how the human mind often becomes much more sharp and clear near death. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 26 minute mark to the 1 hour 32 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You’re either doing science or you’re defending your dogma. (01:25:59) Michael Egnor: Exactly. John Searle, a philosopher of mind, who is an atheist and not a dualist has a tremendous distaste for materialism. And he commented one time, ”When…

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light at the end of the tunnel

The Brain Does Not Create the Mind; It Constrains It.

Near-death experiences in which people report seeing things that are later verified give some sense of how the mind works in relation to the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way that the split-brain research that followed Roger Sperry’s findings has increased the evidence for the reality of the mind. In this segment, they discuss the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind. That may seem counterintuitive at first but consider the evidence: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 12 minute mark to the 1 hour 25 minute mark: Arjuna Das: So, this relates to how I understand perception in the brain, despite the mind being non-material: “The brain is a reducer of consciousness rather than a…

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Colorful wooden alphabet letters  isolated on white background and texture, top view

How the Split Brain Emphasizes the Reality of the Mind

Fascinating research following up Roger Sperry’s work — which showed that the mind is not split when the brain is — has confirmed and extended his findings

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discuss the significance of the fact that there are aspects of the human mind that cannot be split into parts — as demonstrated by the work of Nobelist Roger Sperry (1913–1994). In this segment, they discuss the neuroscientists who followed up on and extended Sperry’s work — one of whom met a tragic end: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 6 minute mark through the 1 hour 12 minute mark: Michael Egnor: There has been some absolutely intriguing work done since Sperry that I think very clearly shows the existence of…

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Empty old opera gala theater stage and red velvet curtains

How Philosopher John Locke Turned Reality Into Theatre

His “little theater in the mind” concept means that you can’t even know that nature exists. It may just be a movie that’s being played in front of your eyes

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, they discuss the way in which theories of perception that began in the early modern era (17thcentury on) led to doubt about our ability to perceive reality. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the forty-seven to fifty-seven minute mark: The Cartesian theater of the mind Arjuna Das: This is one of [the Vedic] arguments against the brain explaining consciousness. By the time it reaches the end stages of its processing, you have about 20 pixels worth of data. So the information that comes from your senses gives you reference points and then your sensors actually are…

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futuristic got

How Did Descartes Come To Make Such a Mess of Dualism?

Mathematician René Descartes strictly separated mind and matter in a way that left the mind very vulnerable

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, before getting into problems with René Descartes’ understanding of consciousness, they begin by talking about qualia, a topic considered “central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness.” For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular…

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Ideas escape from brain of pensive african man

Dualism Is Best Option for Understanding the Mind and the Brain

Theories that attempt to show that the mind does not really exist clearly don’t work and never did

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section (with transcript), they talk about ways we can understand the relationship between the mind and the brain: The basic options are materialist (several varieties), idealist, panpsychist, and dualist. The most popular textbook type theory is reductive materialism, which Egnor says argues that mental states are identical to brain states. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the thirty to forty-two minute mark: Identity theory Michael Egnor: Identity theory doesn’t mean that mental states come from brain states or that they correlate with brain states but that they are brain states, in the same way that the evening…

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

How we can know mental states are real?

Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section, they talk about how we can know that the mind is real and how materialist philosophy has just plain gone bad: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the twenty to thirty-one minute mark: Michael Egnor: There was a philosopher named Franz Brentano (1838–1917) in the 19th century who proposed what I think is the best definition of what distinguishes a mental state from a physical state. Brentano asks, is there any unique thing that all mental states have that no physical state has? He said, it’s intentionality, and by intentionality he meant that every mental state…

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Pot with beautiful blooming azalea and cup of tea on table

How Science Points To Meaning in Life

The earliest philosopher of science, Aristotle, pioneered a way of understanding it

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, he talks about how science points to meaning in life. Earlier, he had explained why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. In this section, he talks about the importance of the concept of purpose in nature (teleology), with a hat tip to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) Here is a partial transcript and notes for the fifteen- to twenty-minute mark: Michael Egnor: I think teleology is the cornerstone of understanding nature. That whole system of understanding nature, that includes…

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Atom Particle

Why Neurosurgeon Mike Egnor Stopped Being a Materialist Atheist

He found that materialism is just not working out in science

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did another podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, Egnor talked about why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. A partial transcript follows, taking us down to 15 minutes, with notes (more in a further installment): Arjuna Das: (00:01:49) Today, I’ve got Michael Egnor on. I’m very delighted to have him on for a second time. He’s a neurosurgeon, a Christian, and he’s quite good at arguing philosophy too… W So we’ll start out with him telling a little bit of a story, how he changed his metaphysical views through things…