Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Two Scientists in the Brain Research Laboratory work on a Project, Using Personal Computer with MRI Scans Show Brain Anomalies. Neuroscientists at Work.

On the Limitations of Cutting-Edge Neuroscience

Neuroscientist Joseph Green separates the hype from reality when it comes to current brain research.

By Joseph Green Editor’s note: In coming weeks, we will be featuring excerpts from the important new book Minding the Brain: Models of the Mind, Information, and Empirical Science (Discovery Institute Press, 2023). In this excerpt, neuroscientist Joseph Green separates the hype from reality when it comes to current brain research. Neuroscience is one of the fastest growing scientific fields. Increasing our understanding of how the brain works is often regarded as one of the most significant challenges of the twenty-first century. Recent neuroscientific discoveries have been celebrated step by step in the media as a result of their significance. Yet, to this day, no major technology company has been able to turn scientific knowledge of the brain into profits. Engineering the Read More ›

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lava surface flow

The Big Problem for Physicalism

One physicalist theory after another has either ignored or falsified the central characteristics of consciousness

Editor’s note: We are delighted to welcome the new book from Discovery Institute Press, Minding the Brain: Models of the Mind, Information, and Empirical Science, edited by Angus J. L. Menuge, Brian R. Krouse, and Robert J. Marks. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 2. Look for more information at MindingtheBrain.org. By Angus Menuge The history of physicalism is one of extraordinary diversity: a wide variety of theories, with multiple versions, have jockeyed for dominance. Yet it is also a tale of persistent failure. One physicalist theory after another has either ignored or falsified the central characteristics of consciousness, intentionality, and rationality that define our mental life. We will begin by tracing the history of physicalism from the early varieties of behaviorism Read More ›

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Atom

Does Consciousness Defeat Materialism?

There is a re-emerging interest in consciousness and the mind

What would it take for “consciousness,” undoubtedly a nebulous and broad term, to defeat the idea that the mind is no more than the brain? For Dean Radin, a parapsychology researcher who was featured on the Closer to Truth program this month, it depends on what you mean by matter. “If you just look through history about the nature of matter, how has it changed historically, it has become more and more ephemeral. And I will imagine it will continue to become more ephemeral,” he said. For Radin, then, matter is complicated, and if you look closely enough, ends up being “mostly nothing.” If you’ve seen the new Oppenheimer movie, directed by Christopher Nolan, perhaps you’ll remember the scene in Read More ›

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Two Scientists in the Brain Research Laboratory work on a Project, Using Personal Computer with MRI Scans Show Brain Anomalies. Neuroscientists at Work.

Neuroscience, the Mind, and Theism

What can modern neuroscience teach us about the immaterial mind? Can we ever know anything for certain? In this episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks with anthropologist Dr. Joshua Farris. They discuss the brain, Descartes, and the theological implications of the various philosophies of mind.  Additional Resources

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old man painting

Sparks and Flashes of Remembrance

An expert in memory-loss treatment recalls some tender stories about memory in the midst of forgetfulness

In a recent Mind Matters podcast episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor (Mike), a frequent contributor to the site, interviewed friend and colleague Stephen Post, an expert in memory-loss-related disorders. Here’s a snippet of their conversation, which you can enjoy in full by following this link. Mike Egnor: So to begin, your new book, Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People, why did you use that title and what do you mean by deeply forgetful people? Stephen Post: Well, that’s a fabulous question to begin with because the title doesn’t quite say it all, but it’s close. I’ve been working with deeply forgetful people and their caregivers since I went out to Case Medical School in 1988, and I have never felt comfortable with Read More ›

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Friendly smiling nurse caregiver in geriatric clinic or retirement home helps senior man with Alzheimer's disease. Happy old man plays puzzles while sitting at table in cozy interior. Dementia concept

Caring for the Deeply Forgetful

How can we compassionately relate to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? Is the mind more than the brain? Dr. Stephen Post, an expert in the field and author of Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People, speaks with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on memory, consciousness, and whether the mind could have arisen from matter. Additional Resources

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Human body with glowing neurons visualization. Generative AI illustration

New Routledge Book on AI: It Won’t Take Us Over

The authors argue that, regardless of the benefits AI might provide in the future, it will never emulate the complex human neurocognitive system.

A new book, Why Machines Will Never Rule the World, amplifies human exceptionalism and critiques the view that artificial intelligence will someday replace human beings. According to authors Jobst Landgrebe and Barry Smith, much of life and work can only be adequately navigated successfully with natural, not computerized, intelligence. They give two reasons for thinking that AI will never exceed human ingenuity: Echoing similar sympathies as Robert J. Marks in his book Non-Computable You: What You Do That Artificial Intelligence Never Will, Landgrebe and Smith argue that the concept of artificial general intelligence is mathematically impossible. A part of the book’s summary reads: Landgrebe and Smith show how a widespread fear about AI’s potential to bring about radical changes in Read More ›

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Sculpture portrait of Aristotle

Sean Carroll: “How Could an Immaterial Mind Affect the Body?”

The well known physicist thinks free will is nonsense. But has he investigated the classical understanding of causation?

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Johns Hopkins University who takes an atheist and materialist philosophical perspective on nature and on science. I have disagreed with him often — I’m in no position to judge his scientific acumen, but his philosophical acumen leaves a lot to be desired. An example of this is a question he asks in a recent documentary about free will (which I haven’t watched yet). In the trailer for the movie, Carroll asks, How in the world does the immaterial mind affect the physical body? Carroll’s denial of libertarian free will is based on this question, and of course, he believes that the immaterial mind does not exist and, if it did exist, could not Read More ›

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Law of Universal Gravitation education funny concept. Isaac Newton under an apple tree

Blinded by a Defunct Theory

The "interaction problem" is everywhere we look in physics, but the dogma of materialism remains

Materialism. What a weird word. It sounds like a ghost, materializing in front of me. And it is sort of like a ghost, one that has mysteriously taken over the minds of many intelligent people. Because they believe in materialism, these smart people don’t believe in ghosts. Especially the ghost in the machine. The problem is there is no way for the ghost to interact with the machine. This is known as the “mind-body interaction problem”.  The great thing about materialism is at least that theory doesn’t have an interaction problem. Any material thing can interact with any other material thing. Yet there is a deep irony. Let’s explore the idea of materialism to see why. Materialism is the idea that reality only consists of matter. Read More ›

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Memory and brain upgrade

Is The Mind an Illusion?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “mind-body problem,” but what about the relationship between the mind and the brain? Is the mind just an illusion produced by the brain or is it something totally separate? Robert Marks talks with neurologist Andrew Knox on these topics and more in this week’s Mind Matters podcast episode. Additional Resources

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brain activity

Ways the Brain Can Heal

Robert Marks and Andrew Knox continue their conversation on neurology, epilepsy, and mental illness. In this episode, they focus on the medications and practices that can help restore proper brain function, from antidepressants to forms of surgery to Elon Musk’s potential “Neuralink.” Additional Resources

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Brain Nervous System concept.Science is something that children should study and learn.Thinking process and Psychology of Kids.

Ways the Brain Can Break

The brain is a marvelous organ still not understood. Artificial neural networks are supposed to be a simulation of the human brain. But comparing the brain to an artificial neural network is like comparing the human heart to a pump handle. Dr. Andrew Knox and Dr. Robert J. Marks discuss the brain, aging, and neurology. Additional Resources

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Mind Energy

Phenomena of the Mind

Endless mysteries dwell inside and outside the brain, and it’s hard to know where the brain ends and the mind begins. Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Andrew Newberg discuss near death experiences, speaking in tongues, and many more mysteries of the mind. Show Notes 00:23 | Near Death Experiences 04:17 | Limitations of the Brain 08:06 | Negative Encounters within Read More ›

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Electrocardiogram in hospital surgery operating emergency room showing patient heart rate with blur team of surgeons background

Why Some Scientists Think Consciousness Persists After Death

We should not assume that people who are near death do not know what we are saying

A very significant change that happened in the last century or so has been the ability of science professionals to see what happens when people are thinking, especially under traumatic conditions. It was not a good moment for materialist theories. Here is one finding (there are many others): Death is a process, usually, not simply an event. Consciousness can persists after clinical death. A more accurate way of putting things might be that the brain is able to host consciousness for a short period after clinical death. Some notes on recent findings: The short answer is, probably, yes: Recent studies have shown that animals experience a surge in brain activity in the minutes after death. And people in the first Read More ›

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Live lobster in the aquarium. Product in the supermarket. Close up photo of big lobsters in water tank for sale

Can Crabs Think? Can Lobsters Feel? What We Know Now

In Switzerland, it is now illegal to boil a lobster alive. Are the Swiss right? Is it cruel?

Because crustaceans have shells, we may tend to think of them as like machines. Yet crustaceans, along with octopuses, show some surprising abilities and complexities. Take crabs, for example: A new Swansea University study has revealed how common shore crabs can navigate their way around a complex maze and can even remember the route in order to find food … Spatial learning is quite complicated, so figuring out how it works in crustaceans gives us a better understanding of how widespread this ability, and learning in general, is in the animal kingdom.” The researchers tested 12 crabs over four weeks, placing food at the end of the maze each time. The route to the end of the maze required five Read More ›

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Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

Researchers Can’t Explain: Memories Drift From Neuron to Neuron

Memories are supposed to stay put in the neurons that lay them down. A recent study, published at Nature, shows that they move a lot…

“Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused”, a recent article at The Atlantic begins. It’s about the way nervous system cells don’t simply lay down memories and keep them. The memories drift from neuron to neuron, quite contrary to textbook claims and traditional neuroscience assumptions: The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset, or hears a bell. These representations—these patterns of neural firing—presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others have found, they sometimes don’t. They change—and to a confusing and unexpected extent. Schoonover, Fink, Read More ›

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Woman experiencing sad emotions and evaluate their emotions from the side. Emotional Intelligence Concept

Neuroscientist: We Are Closing In On the Secret of Self-Awareness

But then he turns around and admits that we are frustratingly far from understanding how it all works. His frustration is understandable.

Cognitive neuroscientist Stephen M. Fleming, author of Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness (2021), offers an excerpt at Slate in which he implies that we have made some headway in understanding self-awareness. Size alone is not the key to intellectual capacity, he says, but rather the “brain soup,” the number of neurons that can be packed into the brain. Primates of all types (monkeys, apes, and humans) are much more efficient at packing neurons into the brain than rodents are: “Regardless of their position on the tree, it seems that primates are evolutionary outliers—but, relative to other primates, humans are not.” He points to a portion of the prefrontal cortex, the “association cortex” which is “particularly well-developed” in humans, relative Read More ›

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Neural networks of the human brain. 3d illustration of abstract nerve centers. Electrical impulses in brain. Bright full color

Young Filmmaker Tackles the Hype About Computing the Brain

In Silico, in which Noah Hutton sorts hope from hype, goes livestream today

Twelve years ago Noah Hutton (pictured), who had some background in neuroscience, heard prominent neuroscientist Henry Markram tell viewers in a TED talk that he had determined how to simulate a complete human brain, via supercomputers, within a decade. At the time, Hutton didn’t question that and he started to document the Blue Brain project that Markham directed, which started with a mouse brain. But then things stalled: As Hutton recounted in Scientific American yesterday, “there were magnificent fly-through visualizations of the first square millimeter of simulated rat brain set to The Blue Danube available in a visitor’s screening room, but a definite lack of progress along the road map towards a human brain.” There was, however, the recognition that Read More ›

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Cute little boy thinking

Boy Born With 2% of Brain “Does Maths, He Loves Science”

Noah Wall’s story raises intriguing questions about the relationship between the brain and the mind

Well before Noah Wall was born, his odds did not look very good. Scans showed he had developed a cyst which was destroying his brain, along with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Doctors predicted he would likely never talk, walk, or eat on his own. Five times his parents, Michelle (Shelly) and Rob, were pressed to abort him. Shelly recalls, “It wasn’t until around the 12 week scan that they knew something just wasn’t quite right,” Shelly told The Epoch Times in a video interview. “I said, ‘Does the baby have a heartbeat?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s all that matters to us.’” Shelly and Rob were referred to the RVI Hospital in Newcastle, where their baby Read More ›

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X-ray.

Why a “Budding” Neuroscientist Is Skeptical of Brain Scans

After reading her perceptive essay about the problems in fMRI imaging in neuroscience, I’m sad that a gifted student has doubts about a career in the field

Kelsey Ichikawa has just published a superb essay about the pitfalls of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain. Ms. Ichikawa (pictured), who describes herself as a ”budding” neuroscientist who graduated last year from Harvard, discusses the snares into which misinterpretation can lead us. fMRI brain scanning is a relatively new technology in which researchers and clinicians use magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain to detect brain activity almost as it happens. The technique is widely used, both for clinical care of patients (neurosurgeons use it to map sensitive parts of the brain prior to surgery) and for research purposes. A major thrust of neuroscience research in the last couple of decades has been the use of fMRI Read More ›