Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagConsciousness

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A salesperson working in an office on a virtual call

Can a Computer Be a Person?

Are we on the verge of the era of machines? Is AI destined to supplant most human endeavors and activities? Can a computer be deemed a person? And if so, should that computer be granted rights as part of the moral community? Will we ever attain immortality by uploading our minds into computers as transhumanists predict? And what the heck Read More ›

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Quantum Nuclear Fusion Entanglement, 3d Representation

As Conscious Observers, Do We Help Create Our World?

That’s the big question in quantum mechanics, as science communicator Elizabeth Fernandez explains

Elizabeth Fernandez asks whether there is “something unique” about the fact that we are conscious observers of our world. Interesting question. Inanimate objects don’t “observe” anything. If the inanimate objects are equipment that we have designed and produced, they may record observations for us that our senses could not make on their own. But they are still our observations because we can understand and interpret them. What about a dog’s observations? Along the lines of what he understands, they may be pretty good. He can pick up the scent of a hare with considerable precision and he is likely quite conscious of what that means and what to do abut it. But dog consciousness has its limits. He not only Read More ›

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Illustration eines Eisbergs

Cormac McCarthy Tries To Make Sense of the Unconscious Mind

He offers shafts of light that make the “hard problem of (un)consciousness” feel less forbidding

In a classic piece at Nautilus, novelist Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) — author of, among other novels, All the Pretty Horses (1992) and The Road (2007) — muses on the origin and nature of the unconscious mind. As we might expect from a novelist, it’s not his grand theory that is of much use at all. His grand theory is that “the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal,” which makes no sense. He adds, “All animals have an unconscious. If they didnt they would be plants.” How does he know that pond hydras, for example, have an “unconsciousness” but maple trees don’t? Well, he doesn’t. And yet, he also offers shafts of light that make the “Hard Problem Read More ›

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Hinduism, Philosophy, and the Mind

Arjuna Gallagher is the host of the YouTube Channel called Theology Unleashed and a Hindu. He discusses Hinduism’s unique perspective regarding subjects such as metaphysics, evil, and free will with Dr. Michael Egnor. They also address creation, social ethics, and the relationship of the mind and the body. Additional Resources Dr. Michael Egnor Follow Arjuna Gallagher on Facebook Subscribe to Read More ›

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This experimental painting features swirls of black, grey, purple, and white paints.

The Nature of Mind, Body, and Soul

How do the mind, the body, and the soul interact? After years of studying the brain, there are still many questions. Dr. Joshua Farris discusses free will, consciousness, and philosophy on this bingecast with Dr. Michael Egnor. Additional Resources Dr. Joshua Farris Dr. Michael Egnor Buy Dr. Joshua R. Farris’ Book: The Soul of Theological Anthropology Cartesian Exploration What is Read More ›

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Hinduism, Reincarnation, and the Mind-Body Problem

Arjuna Gallagher is the host of the YouTube Channel called Theology Unleashed and a Hindu. He discusses Hinduism, reincarnation, karma, and other religious subjects as they pertain to the relationship between the mind and the body with Michael Egnor. Show Notes 00:05 | Introducing Arjuna Gallagher 01:33 | What is Hinduism? 03:03 | Central Themes of Hinduism 04:09 | Is Read More ›

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2d illustration Human Male Muscle Body

Discussing Consciousness and the Mind-Body Problem

What does it even mean to be aware of something, to be conscious? Why do the vast majority of people only have one consciousness? Will computers ever experience consciousness? On this Bingecast, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Angus Menuge discuss these questions and more. Show Notes 00:01:36 | Introducing Dr. Angus Menuge 00:07:02 | Near-death experiences 00:10:32 | The Read More ›

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Mechanical Bull

Don’t Blame Me; I’m a Meat Robot.

Methodological naturalism invariably draws certain conclusions. One of these notions is that we have no free will, and therefore, no culpability. We are essentially puppets hanging from genetic strings. Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Joshua Farris discuss this erroneous idea, as well as other failing conclusions created by ideological science. Show Notes 00:06 | Introducing Dr. Joshua Farris 00:24 | Read More ›

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Man with conceptual spiritual body art

The Body and the Soul

Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Joshua Farris continue their conversation about the nature of the body and the soul, starting with whether or not Thomism and Cartesianism can be blended and ending with an exploration of the Aristotelian view of the mind/body relationship. Read More ›
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Unlocking the Mysteries of Life and Death concept.Two human figures join together with bright rays and keyhole between them.

Why Cartesian Dualism?

Materialism is dead. There are simply too many questions left unanswered after years of studying the brain. Now, people are scrambling for a new way to understand the mind-body relationship. Cartesian dualism has become a whipping boy in philosophy, but it has advantages over the alternatives. Dr. Joshua Farris discusses Cartesianism and philosophy with Dr. Michael Egnor. Show Notes 01:27 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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Green Bacteria Colony

Neuroscientist: Nervous Systems Alone Do Not Cause Consciousness

Antonio Damasio, author of Feeling & Knowing (2021), points to the whole body as involved in consciousness

Prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, considered “a leader in understanding the biological origin of consciousness,” wrote in The Scientist yesterday that “The idea that minds and consciousness might be generated by the nervous system alone is false. In his view, the whole body is involved in consciousness: Attempts to understand consciousness exclusively in terms of neural activity have failed and are, in good part, responsible for the belief held by some scientists and educated laypeople that consciousness is an inexplicable mystery. It is likely true that consciousness only emerges in organisms endowed with nervous systems, but it is just as true that consciousness also requires abundant interactions between those systems and many non-nervous parts of the organism Antonio Damasio, “Opinion: Being, Read More ›

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Tree brain with human head cape, idea concept of think  hope freedom and mind , surreal artwork, dream art , fantasy landscape, imagination of nature

The Final Materialist Quest?: A War on the Reality of the Mind

Going to war with the very concept is an approach even George Orwell did not think up

One of the stranger articles we’ve seen in a long time at Aeon proposes a war on the very concept of “the mind.” “The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them,” Joe Gough, a philosophy student, says. Here is his reasoning: The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once. Read More ›

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Blume des Lebens mit Sternenkosmos und Lichtstreifen

The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp out consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical 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 pepole 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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Beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, moon and the trees. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

“If Nobody Looks at the Moon, Does It Exist?” and Other Metaphysical Questions

If no one is looking at the moon, does it exist? Why has materialism been around for so long? Will computers ever be conscious? What happens to our consciousness after we die? Bernardo Kastrup tackles these questions and more with Michael Egnor in another bingecast! Show Notes 0:00:28 | Introducing Dr. Bernardo Kastrup 0:01:22 | How quantum mechanics points to Read More ›

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Man with his back walking through the fog street

Is a Science Writer’s “Agnosticism” a Futile Pursuit?

John Horgan, a creative thinker and able writer, is agnostic about quantum mechanics, consciousness, and God. But let’s look at the bases for that.

If science writer John Horgan had merely said that agnosticism is the only sensible stance regarding God, there would be little surprise. That view is over-represented in popular science writing. But he says the same thing about quantum mechanics and consciousness too. Some brief snippets from his article (with brief responses): He’s not happy that quantum mechanics, a well-established branch of science (our computers would not work if it were not real) cannot eliminate the role of the conscious observer: Quantum mechanics Introducing consciousness into physics undermines its claim to objectivity. Moreover, as far as we know, consciousness arises only in certain organisms that have existed for a brief period here on Earth. So how can quantum mechanics, if it’s Read More ›

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Abstract fractal spiral. Shell background

Quantum Theory of Consciousness Gains Support From Recent Study

The researchers were testing principles that underpin the Penrose–Hameroff theory

Cristiane de Morais Smith, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Utrecht in Belgium, has teamed up with colleagues from China led by quantum physicist Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University to test principles that underpin a quantum theory of consciousness. Many dismiss the idea, originally proposed in the Nineties by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, because it is assumed that quantum mechanical laws (as opposed to classical physics laws) apply mainly at very low temperatures, for example at – 272 C, which is just below – 273 (absolute zero, when all classical movement stops). De Morais Smith and Xian-Min think, however, that they may have come a bit closer to validating the idea: Our brains are composed of Read More ›

Environmental awareness, global warming consciousness and aspirations to protect future of the planet conceptual idea with close up on hand holding the earth in the open palm

The Day Philosophers Started To Take Consciousness Seriously

Of course, once they did, they found themselves deep in huge conundrums

We sometimes forget how far we are from solving the mystery of consciousness. An anecdote from 1994 might help us understand. Picture an utterly boring, pointless conference in Tucson, Arizona, one of whose attendees was an obscure philosopher from Australia, scheduled to give the third talk. And shook everything up: The brain, Chalmers began by pointing out, poses all sorts of problems to keep scientists busy. How do we learn, store memories, or perceive things? How do you know to jerk your hand away from scalding water, or hear your name spoken across the room at a noisy party? But these were all “easy problems”, in the scheme of things: given enough time and money, experts would figure them out. Read More ›

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Illustration of synapse and neuron on a blue background.

Will We Soon Be Able to Test Theories of Consciousness?

Proponents of two leading theories of consciousness are trying to develop tests for their models, in a hitherto baffling field

Science journalist and author Anil Ananthaswamy has written a thoughtful piece at New Scientist on the leading models of consciousness and their relationship to quantum mechanics (quantum physics). Are we reaching the point where we can test at least one of them? Ananthaswamy is well qualified to assess the arguments. He is the author of both Through Two Doors at Once (2018) on quantum physics and The Man Who Wasn’t There (2015) on the nature of the self. Models of consciousness that assume that “consciousness isn’t separate from the material reality that physics explains” (materialist or naturalist theories) fall into three general classes, as he explains. Analysts like Tufts philosopher Daniel Dennett and Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano argue that consciousness Read More ›