Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Tagfree will

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Mousetrap with a piece of cheese on a dark vintage background. The concept -

Finding From Recent Brain Research Supports Free Will

Researchers, altering Libet’s classical experiment, found that human brains show no “readiness potential” when a decision is important

Philosopher Alessandra Buccella and experimental psychologist Tomáš Dominik, both at Chapman University, offer some interesting support for free will. Many commentators interpreted Benjamin Libet’s experiments that showed that the brain’s readiness to make a decision (readiness potential) often preceded the subject’s conscious awareness of the choice that had been made. There! they said, that proves that there is no free will: To many observers, these findings debunked the intuitive concept of free will. After all, if neuroscientists can infer the timing or choice of your movements long before you are consciously aware of your decision, perhaps people are merely puppets, pushed around by neural processes unfolding below the threshold of consciousness. Alessandra Buccella, Tomáš Dominik, “Free Will Is Only an Read More ›

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photorealistic smoke sim in a sci-fi/knolling case - AI Generated

A Physicist Rejects the Idea That We Live in a Sim Universe

At IAI News, Marcelo Gleiser worries that the claim that we are simulated beings with no free will reduces our ability to tackle the problems humanity faces

Dartmouth College physicist Marcelo Gleiser insists that the reality in which we live is not a simulation by advanced aliens or other intelligences — and that the fact that it isn’t is important. As the summary of his essay at IAI News explains, The idea that we are living in a simulation has become commonplace. Elon Musk, for example, thinks it is almost certain we are living in a simulation. But the simulation hypothesis comes up against insurmountable problems, and is, in the end, an excuse for us not to sort out our real moral failings… Marcelo Gleiser, “Reality is not a simulation and why it matters” at IAI News (January 4, 2023) The “simulation” idea may sound pretty far-fetched 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 ›

Independent Thinking

A British Philosopher Looks For a Way to Redefine Free Will

Julian Baggini’s proposed new approach assumes the existence of the very qualities that only a traditional view of the mind offers

British philosopher Julian Baggini, author of The Great Guide: What David Hume Can Teach Us about Being Human and Living Well (2021) argues against the idea of free will, as commonly understood (voluntarist free will). Citing the fact that the world is controlled by physics, he writes, No matter how free we feel, our understanding of nature tells us that no choice originates in us but traces its history throughout our histories and our environments. Even leaving aside physics, it seems obvious that, at the moment of any choice, the conditions for that choice have already been set, and to be able to escape them would be no more than the ability to generate random actions. And if all that 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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Space cosmic background of supernova nebula and stars field

Leading Astronomer Gets It All Wrong About Free Will and Destiny

Logic and reason aren’t laws of physics and therefore they transcend physical properties

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, has recently written an essay in which he considers whether human beings have free will and how long the human race will survive. Loeb is a prolific and often quite thoughtful scientist who has a refreshing propensity to think outside the mainstream. However, his recent essay in Scientific American, titled “How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?”, is well off the mark. I think he profoundly misunderstands human nature and human destiny. Loeb opines on the question of human free will: The Standard Model of physics presumes that we are all made of elementary particles with no additional constituents. As such composite systems, we do not possess freedom at a fundamental level, because all particles and Read More ›

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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 Read More ›

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Skyscrapers and City. 3d illustration

Quantum Physicist Shows How Consciousness Can Create Reality

In his argument against physicalism (physical nature is all there is), Andersen draws from the 19th-century philosopher Schopenhauer the concept of Will as the basis of all reality

Tim Andersen, principal research scientist at Georgia Tech in general relativity and quantum field theory and author of The Infinite Universe: A First Principles Guide (2020), offers a riff on the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). He argues, with Schopenhauer, that Will is the basis of reality: The key to understanding Will is in examining our own sense of consciousness. We have, in a sense, two levels of consciousness. The first is of experience. We experience a flower’s color and smell. Therefore, we are conscious of it. The second is that we are aware of our consciousness of it. That is a meta-consciousness which we sometimes call reflection. I reflect on my awareness of the flower. It is this second level 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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Create yourself concept. Good looking young man drawing a picture, sketch of himself

If You Could Change by “Inserting” Knowledge… Should You?

An education professor is surprisingly sympathetic to just “inserting” Correct knowledge to produce desirable changes

John Tillson, philosopher of education and author of Children, Religion, and the Ethics of Influence, asks if, instead of drills and homework, what about just “learning” a skill via a computer cable plugged into the back of your head, the way Neo learned karate in The Matrix?: Discussing the pros and cons of just acquiring knowledge by mere insertion, Tillson is surprisingly friendly to the idea, especially in terms of reprogramming bad ideas: Even if we dodge the threat of replacement by downloading a modest suite of knowledge at a suitably gentle pace, we might still worry that knowledge insertion would make us become someone we wouldn’t want to be. This isn’t always a problem. Suppose Neo was racist and Read More ›

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Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Freebits: An Interesting Argument From the Big Bang for Free Will

There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will

Caleb Scharf (pictured), author of The Ascent of Information (2021), offers an excerpt at Nautilus that introduces two new terms, the “dataome” and “freebits.” The dataome is all the ways human beings create information, from cave paintings to cloud servers. He asks, “Was all of this really inevitable? Did we ever have a choice in creating a dataome or doing any of the things we do, and does any self-aware entity in the universe have a choice either?” Relying on theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s 2013 essay, “The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine,” he asks us to consider that there are two types of uncertainty, only one of which could create choice. Typical “randomness” actually follows statistical laws, a Read More ›

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Egg power fear hammer

Is More Coercion — in Principle — an “Extension” of Morality?

Activist Garrett Hardin popularized government coercion to “save the planet” in 1968

Recently, the Communist Party of China has announced permission for the three-child family, possibly because of the demographic ruin that the previous one-child family has occasioned in that country. But the basic idea that government should control everything is not new and it did not originate in China. Let’s go back to the 1960s in the United States. In 1968, Garrett Hardin (1915–2003) made a famous appeal in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine, Science, for good old-fashioned coercion of human beings to stop having so many children: The abstract for his “Tragedy of the Commons” (Science, 1968), a Cool concept at the time, read simply “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental 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

New Paper Provides Further Evidence for Free Will

According to the new research, many of the busy brain signals on which the “no free will” position depends on were system noise

We all sense that free will is real. We know that we could have stopped ourselves from making some mistakes. For decades, some neuroscientists have claimed that free will is an illusion, based on some well-publicized experiments. Some recent research challenges that: Experiments spanning the 1960s and 1980s measured brain signals noninvasively and led many neuroscientists to believe that our brains make decisions before we do—that human actions were initiated by electrical waves that did not reflect free, conscious thought. However, a new article in Trends in Cognitive Science argues that recent research undermines this popular case against free will. “This new perspective on the data turns on its head the way well-known findings have been interpreted,” said Adina Roskies, Read More ›

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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 Read More ›

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Spherical energetic quantum bubble

Can Quantum Mechanics Help Decipher Consciousness? Free Will?

Nobel laureate Roger Penrose, among others, looked to the quantum world for models

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness and various proposed solutions. One of the questions that oftem\n comes up is quantum consciousness. Earlier, they had discussed Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and panpsychism. But now, what about recent Nobelist Roger Penrose’s approach: quantum consciousness? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 18:22 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): Okay. Another model of consciousness of which I am aware is so-called quantum consciousness. I’m really interested in this because reading the works of Roger Penrose, he maintains that humans can do non-algorithmic things. And he looked around at the Read More ›

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Villa Melzi - Dante e Beatrice

One of the Greatest Poets Asks, Can We Be Good Without Free Will?

As a centuries old poem shows, materialism is a logical mistake and not really a coherent system of belief

Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri, exiled for life from his native Florence, took the opportunity to write a magnificent trilogy — the Divine Comedy — in which he tours Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Comedy is more than a poetic masterpiece. It is a profound philosophical and theological reflection on this life and on eternity. Remarkably, although Dante’s immediate guides through the unseen worlds are, famously, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) and later, a childhood sweetheart Beatrice (who died young), his philosophical guide is the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. The metaphysics, the ethics, and the theology of the Divine Comedy deeply reflect Thomas’s influence. That is remarkable, considering that Dante (1265–1321 AD), who was only a child Read More ›

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Visualization of Painted Dream

Sci-fi Saturday: “Limbo” Profiles a Future Approach to Punishment

The convict must live in a vision, induced during a coma, as the victim (or bereft loved one), in an attempt to rehabilitate him by teaching empathy

“Limbo” (2020) at DUST by Andrew Morris and Rob Silva (April 8, 2021 at DUST, 24:21) “One man’s search for his kidnapped daughter causes his reality to unravel.” A most interesting premise: In the future, there are no prisons. There are no institutions with high walls and barred cells. Instead, the convicted are placed into a coma and forced to live out their sentence within a dream, with reality inverted, as the victim of their own crime. You killed someone’s wife? Your sentence is a life where your spouse has been taken from you, leaving you to toil in grief and mental anguish. But for ‘inmates’ who are wrongfully convicted, and are forced to live in their punishing alternate reality Read More ›

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Robotic man cyborg face representing artificial intelligence 3D rendering

Are We Facing the Next, Very Rapid Stage of Evolution, via AI?

Prof. Mark Alan Walker: “Person-engineering technologies will make it possible to accomplish in a matter of years what evolution would take thousands of millennia to achieve.”

These are certainly heady times in the biotech world. With the new mRNA vaccine being created in just a few days in January 2020, someone can mass produce DNA in their garage for the price of a hamburger, and Alpha Fold 2 can predict proteins from DNA with accuracy, rivalling wet lab results, it seems we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. Most viral infections will cease if all we need to do to roll out a new vaccine is sequence the virus genome and mass produce the portion that binds to human cells. On the darker side, it will also likely mean a greater threat of biowarfare. Creating a new virus may just be a matter of downloading Read More ›

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Vice grip tool squeezing a plank with the word free will

A Reader Asks: Does Neuroscience Disprove Free Will?

Materialists sometimes misrepresent the evidence for free will, especially Benjamin Libet’s work

Here’s the question: I have a question regarding free will. Sam Harris in his interview with Dan Dennett said that “If we decide to do go to somewhere we experience it later but our brain decided it much earlier than our experience to this decision. If we scan the brain at that time we will tell you before you came to know” Now it raise a question because we decide through intellect. You said that free will is due to intellect so intellect is challenged here. It’s an excellent question. The answer in brief is that we most certainly do have free will. We can see this from three perspectives: scientific, philosophical, and logical. The scientific evidence The scientific evidence Read More ›

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Atom Particle

A Materialist Gives Up on Determinism

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne undercuts his own argument against free will by admitting that quantum phenomena are real

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has denied free will for years. But most recently, he has said something that puts the whole matter in doubt. A bit of background: Free will simply cannot be real if determinism is true, that is, if everything in nature falls like dominoes after the first one is pushed: If nature is truly like that, our acts, like those of the dominoes, are wholly determined by natural history and physical laws that we do not control. Nearly all arguments against free will depend critically on determinism. But there is a central problem with determinism: It is clear from physics that determinism in nature is not true. In 1964, theoretical physicist John Bell (1928–1990) proposed relatively simple Read More ›