Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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The Reality of the Mind: The Argument From Epilepsy

Why do epileptic seizures evoke many odd behaviors but not abstract thought?

In the recent debate between neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and philosopher David Papineau, “Atheist Philosopher and Christian Neurosurgeon Debate Materialism” at Theology Unleashed, there was sort of digression at 49:30 on the nature of thought. Dr. Egnor talks about what he learned from his experiences with treating epilepsy and Dr. Papineau responds. Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist.” On that view, “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.” Michael Egnor: There are three metaphysical questions that I think can be answered in an inferential way,…

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…

Psychology concept. Sunrise and woman silhouette.

Egnor vs. Papineau, Round 4: Egnor Defends the Mind vs. the Brain

Philosopher David Papineau does not feel that neurosurgeon Michael Egnor is being “entirely helpful” at this point…

Yesterday, we published the third portion of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, where the key issue was “Could there have been a material cause for the Big Bang that is held to have started our universe?” For Egnor’s opening statement, go here. Here’s Papineau’s reply. Today, we look at the portion which starts roughly at 26:30 where they start to talk about the human mind. Is the mind simply “what the brain does”? Papineau begins: Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist.” On that view, “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of…

Microfono tenuto in mano conferenza

Round 2: Philosopher Papineau Replies to Neurosurgeon Egnor

Dr. Papineau is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.”

Yesterday, we published a portion of the transcript of the debate between materialist philosopher David Papineau amd neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, in which Egnor explains how, despite early atheism, the practice of medicine led him to believe that there is a God and that the mind is not simply what the brain does. He offered three reasons. Today, here’s a transcript of David Papineau’s reply. Starts, roughly, at 9:00 min: Note: Dr. Papineau is a “physicalist,” a form of materialism according to which “the mind is a purely physical construct, and will eventually be explained entirely by physical theory, as it continues to evolve.” (Philosophy basics) He is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all…

X-ray of the head and brain of a person

Bingecast: Michael Egnor on the Human Brain

In this Bingecast episode, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Michael Egnor explore the human brain and its relationship to the mind. Is the mind an emergent property of the brain? Is there neurological evidence for the soul? What have brain experiments taught us about free will and the human person? Can you still think in a coma? Show Notes…

Quantum particle, quantum mechanics

Can a Materialist Consciousness Theory Survive Quantum Mechanics?

Quantum mechanics requires that the observer be part of the measurement; thus quantum measurements must include consciousness

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, where the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness, one of the questions was whether quantum mechanics can help decipher consciousness. But that leads to another question: Can any materialist view of consciousness survive quantum mechanics? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 22:35 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Is quantum consciousness rooted in materialism? Can you look at quantum consciousness and say, this is materialistic? Angus Menuge: That’s a tricky question. For most materialists, their paradigm is really set by older 19th-century views of physical science. By definition, this goes beyond that. However, if one defines materialism…

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Can LSD Help Us Understand the Mind–Brain Relationship?

Is the mind generated by the brain or does the brain merely focus the mind on the current scene? An experiment sheds some light

In a fascinating article inThe Guardian titled “Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception,” science editor Ian Sample discusses recent research on the mechanism by which LSD alters the brain and the mind. He begins by quoting Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) who noted that LSD “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life.” Remarkably, recent work in neuroscience supports Huxley’s view. The research, conducted at Cornell University, confirms what has been called the Rebus model of psychedelics. Rebus is a rough acronym for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”; the model proposes that the brain is essentially a prediction engine for daily life. In this model, the brain processes information…

Ideas escape from brain of pensive african man

How Have Various Thinkers Tried To Solve the Mind–Body Problem?

Philosopher Angus Menuge explains why traditional physicalism (the mind is just what the brain does) doesn’t really work

In last week’s podcast, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed Concordia University philosopher Angus Menuge on one of philosophy’s biggest headscratchers, the mind–body problem. In the second part, they looked at a big question, if the mind and body are so different, how can they interact? We know we are not just bodies, and a number of models of the relationship are offered. Menuge offers a look at some of them: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-133-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 15:50 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Some philosophers don’t think the mind–body problem is as big a challenge as it is made out to be. Angus Menuge (pictured): Well, there are some like Richard Swinburne, who is…

Laboratory mice in the experiment test. Blue filter.

Has Neuroscience “Proved” That the Mind Is Just the Brain?

This is hardly the first time that bizarre claims have been made for minimal findings. In neuroscience, materialism is the answer only if you don’t understand the questions.

Last month, materialist neurologist Steven Novella made a rather astonishing claim in a post at his Neurologica blog: A recent open-access study of learning and decision-making in mice shows that the human mind is merely what the human brain does. That’s a lot for mice to prove. In the study, the mice were trained to choose holes from which food is provided. Their brain activity was measured as they learned and decided which holes were best. The research looks specifically at quick and intuitive decision-making vs. decision-making that is slower and involves analysis of the situation. The investigators found that analysis-based decisions in the mice involve brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region of the brain…

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Creative background, the human brain on a blue background, the hemisphere is responsible for logic, and responsible for creativity. different hemispheres of the brain, 3D illustration, 3D render

Why the Mind Can’t Just Be the Brain

Thinking it through carefully, the idea doesn't even make sense

Philosopher Roger Scruton (1944–2020) defined neuroscience thus (I paraphrase): Neuroscience is a huge collection of answers with no memory of the questions. Over the past century, neuroscientists have amassed vast libraries of data. But their interpretation of their data on the mind-brain question shows no meaningful understanding of the genuine questions their research is tasked to answer. These questions are ancient: What is the relationship between the soul (or mind) and the body (or brain)? How is it that matter can think? How is it that third-person stuff gives rise to first-person experience? Answers to such questions from the neuroscience community show little evidence of the profound and subtle nature of the questions. Thus, neuroscientists provide answers to questions they…


Why Reasonable People Think Near-Death Experiences Are Real

Distinguished engineers Walter Bradley and Robert J.Marks sift through the evidence

In a recent podcast, “Walter Bradley on Near-Death Experiences,” Center director Robert J. Marks discusses these experiences with Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named. Dr. Bradley is an emeritus distinguished professor at Baylor University, formerly professor and mechanical engineering head at Texas A&M University. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-093-Walter-Bradley.mp3 Here are some selections from the transcript: (You can download the entire transcript here.) Marks and Bradley started with first principles: Is it reasonable to believe that there is anything out beyond the material world? Many people assume that science exists to defend materialism. But Walter Bradley has defended the idea that there is also an immaterial world, of which we are a part, in a…

walking through history

Bingecast: Walter Bradley on Near-Death Experiences

Those who’ve survived near-death experiences often describe an otherworldly journey. Can near-death experiences shed light on the mind/body problem? Robert J. Marks discusses near-death experiences and the mind/body problem with Dr. Walter Bradley. Show Notes 0:00:45 | Introducing Dr. Walter Bradley, Emeritus Distinguished Professor at Baylor University 0:01:10 | Beliefs and objectivity 0:03:35 | A priori assumptions 0:05:01 | What…

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Philosopher: Consciousness is Not a Problem. Dualism Is!

Physicalist David Papineau says consciousness is just “brain processes that feel like something”

Physicalist David Papineau  argues that consciousness “seems mysterious not because of any hidden essence, but only because we think about it in a special way.” In short, it's all in our heads. But wait, say others, the hard problem of consciousness is not so easily dismissed.

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The Mind’s Reality Is Consistent with Neuroscience

A neglected “dualist” theory offers some insights

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor thinks that the explanation of the relationship of the mind to the brain that best fits today’s neuroscience is that certain powers, particularly the intellect and will, are not generated by matter but are immaterial. However, other properties of the mind, like perception, memory and imagination are physical, generated by brain matter.

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Michael Egnor: Is Your Brain the Same as Your Mind?

Is the mind an emergent property of the brain? Or is there something else going on? Robert J. Marks discusses the different theories of the mind — including materialism, panpsychism, and dualism — with Dr. Michael Egnor. Read More ›
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Yes, Split Brains Are Weird, But Not the Way You Think

Scientists who dismiss consciousness and free will ignore the fact that the higher faculties of the mind cannot be split even by splitting the brain in half

Patients after split-brain surgery are not split people. They feel the same, act the same, and think the same, for all intents and purposes. Materialists like Jerry Coyne focus on subtle differences and distort the big picture.

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Yes, Consciousness Is Real But That’s Not the Half of It

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci ends up skating deftly around the main problems

Those who would understand immaterial realities like consciousness should not speak so disrespectfully of dualism as Dr. Pigliucci does.

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Walter Bradley: Is Your Body an Instrument of Your Mind?

Are we simply matter and chemical reactions or are our minds separate from our bodies? Robert J. Marks discusses the mind/body problem with Dr. Walter Bradley. Show Notes 00:34 | Introducing Dr. Walter Bradley, Emeritus Distinguished Professor at Baylor University 01:01 | Beliefs and objectivity 04:00 | A priori assumptions 04:36 | What is the mind/body problem? 05:45 | The…